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  • Call for additional health care and substance abuse treatment in fighting the drug epidemic

    By Ramona du Houx

    Senators Angus King and Susan Collins on August 11, 2015 signed on to a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to urge increased access to treatments for prescription pain addiction.

    Currently doctors can only treat 50 patients per year for drug addiction, and then 100 in sucessive years. Since the creation and usage of pain killers drug addiction has increased. At the same time drug dealers have "customized" their products like heroin with quality control- much like the TV show Breaking Bad depicted with meth. With pain killers being more potient they have become gateway drugs to addiction. As a result many middle-class people have become addicts spuring an epademic.

    “Maine leaders across the political spectrum recognize the importance of access to health care and substance abuse treatment in addressing the drug epidemic in our state,” said House Speaker Eves, a trained family therapist who has worked on the frontlines with individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness. “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’ve seen first hand that the battle with addiction won’t be won in a jail cell. The state must take a comprehensive approach.”

    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 provides funding to reestablish a new drug court in Penobscot County. Lawmakers also listened to the medical experts and rejected the governor's cuts to funds for drugs that are proven to fight addiction and expanded access to a life-saving overdose antidote.

    Over the past four years, the LePage administration has cut health care for thousands of Maine people, including access to drug treatment. Cuts in MaineCare coverage and low reimbursement rates have already lead to the closure of one of the largest treatment facilities in the state and we know that others are struggling to stay open.