Bill sets up pilot treatment program for the homeless
By Ramona du Houx
On July 2, 2018 Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the Homeless Opioid Users Service Engagement Pilot (H.O.U.S.E.), a bill sponsored by Rep. Drew Gattine to help Maine's most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic.
“In 2017, we lost 418 Mainers to the opioid epidemic. Things continue to get worse and it is hard to imagine why the governor would exercise his veto authority in such a heartless way. Opioid addiction has unique and particularly devastating impacts on Mainers who are already vulnerable and at risk, like the homeless,” said Rep. Gattine, D-Westbrook. “The pilot project in this bill is critical to finding the best way to help them.”
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 25 opioid users who are among the most vulnerable and unstable in Maine, including homeless, uninsured, underinsured and unemployed 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 bill had overwhelming support from the law enforcement, medical and treatment communityiesand received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
“These are people who struggle every day to meet their most basic needs of food and shelter, and simply offering traditional treatment in traditional settings is an inadequate approach to helping them manage and maintain recovery,” said Rep. Gattine. “We need to meet them where they are to have a chance to really help them. To do anything less is a death sentence. I hope the Legislature is able to override this senseless veto.”
The vote on the bill was unanimous in the House and 16-15 in the Senate.
The Legislature is expected to vote on overriding the veto when it convenes on Monday, July 9. It takes a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto.
Gattine represents part of Westbrook and is in his third term in the Legislature. He serves as the House chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.