by ramona du Houx
Rep. Drew Gattine’s emergency legislation responding to the opioid crisis, LD 1711, Resolve, To Save Lives by Establishing a Homeless Opioid Users Service Engagement Pilot Project (H.O.U.S.E.) received initial support in the Maine House of Representatives on April 9, 2018.
The vote was 94 - 52.
The legislation will provide treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery for opioid users who are among the most vulnerable in Maine.
“We have received absolutely appalling and horrific news - in 2017 we lost 418 Mainers to the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Gattine. “This crisis is only intensifying and it clear that our response is woefully inadequate. While I appreciate the initial support of this legislation from my colleagues and I will be doing everything I can to see it passed, I hope it is only the beginning of serious action.”
H.O.U.S.E. is a pilot project that provides low-barrier treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery and create stability for 50 opioid users who are among the most vulnerable and unstable in Maine (homeless, uninsured, underinsured, unemployed polysubstance users) and are among the highest utilizers of inpatient hospital services and criminal justice system.
Homeless individuals will have access to a “medication first” system of low-barrier Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and rapid housing with a creative menu of options to best meet the individual’s need and ensure paths to recovery.
“The stress this epidemic is putting on treatment resources, and on law enforcement and on every aspect of our social fabric is crippling,” said Gattine. “We need to increase access to treatment. We need to meet people where they are. To do anything less is a death sentence.”
The legislation was one of the specific unanimous recommendations of the Opioid Task Force.
Recommendations put forward by the Task Force include improved youth prevention programs, better prevention of prescription drug diversion, access and awareness of affordable treatment options, expanded specialty courts and pre-diversion programs among more than a dozen other areas of focus.
The measure, LD 1711, faces further votes in Senate. Gattine, chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House.