Pending recommendations to be presented to full Legislature in early December
by Ramona du Houx
Maine’s Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in the State concluded its work Tuesday, preparing to deliver its recommendations for combating the drug crisis by December 6, 2017 to the full Legislature for action.
“Every day we hesitate literally means the death of another Mainer,” said House chair of the Task Force Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell. “From infants born drug-affected to jail cells filled with our neighbors in need of treatment, the statewide epidemic requires that we take action. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on increasing prevention efforts, expanding access to effective, affordable treatment, and addressing the underlying poverty and inequality that have delivered this crisis.”
The objective of the 19-member Task Force is for lawmakers and community experts to report back to the Legislature any recommendations, including legislation, that would assist with statewide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
The Task Force will be compiling its recommendations, which have not yet been released, for legislation in the areas of law enforcement, prevention and harm reduction, and treatment and recovery. As a Legislative Task Force, any recommendations in the form of legislation are required to be referred to committees for additional action prior to appearing before the House and Senate.
“The legislature has the opportunity to act decisively to combat this emergency. We cannot ignore its impact or disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment. Expecting people to pull themselves up by their boot straps just isn’t working. This is a complex problem requiring broad-based solutions,” added Rep. McCreight. “It’s time to recognize the extreme cost of this crisis, which can be measured in lives lost, families torn apart, a workforce gutted and an economy held back. It’s time to take action to help our neighbors get the help they need.”
In a revised interim report delivered May 15, 2017, the Task Force identified the current state of the drug crisis in Maine and analyzed treatment options, law enforcement challenges and other topics directly related to the opiate epidemic.
According to the Maine Attorney General’s office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of this year. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376.
McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.