Eves urges Governor's drug summit participants to focus on bringing treatment, law enforcement tools together to fight drug epidemic
By Ramona du Houx
On August 18, Gov. LePage announced the list of summit participants comprised largely of law enforcement officials. His closed-door summit has some worried that it maybe too exclusive.
"Nationally and here in Maine, we've seen leaders across the political spectrum recognize the importance of access to health care and substance abuse treatment in addressing the drug epidemic. The drug crisis is a health care crisis, not simply a matter for law enforcement,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, a trained family therapist who has worked on the frontlines with individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness.
"The Governor has put together a respected list of law enforcement and public safety officials. I urge this group to focus on the ways substance abuse treatment tools can work together with law enforcement efforts to fix the problem. There are models in other places like Gloucester, Massachusetts and Seattle that have proven to work. In treating at risk families across the state, I’ve seen first hand that the battle with addiction won’t be won in a jail cell. The state must take a comprehensive approach. The Legislature took several steps to bolster law enforcement efforts to counter the drug crisis, but more needs to be done to address treatment and addiction. I plan to send the Governor and the participants a list of ideas to consider since no lawmakers appear to invited to participate in the closed-door meeting."
This year lawmakers passed a $6.7 billion bipartisan budget that funds up to six of the seven new drug enforcement agents requested by Gov. Paul LePage. The bipartisan budget also added two new drug prosecutors to handle major drug crimes, two new judges and two new clerks for the court system to handle the increased caseload. It also provides funding to reestablish a new drug court in Penobscot County.
Over the past four years, the LePage administration has cut health care for thousands of Maine people, including access to drug treatment. The administration also announced plans to terminate contracts with substance abuse treatment facilities. Cuts in MaineCare coverage and low reimbursement rates have already lead to the closure of one of the largest treatment facilities in the state, while other struggle to remain open.