Maine lawmakers enact bill to treat opioid addiction for homeless

Bill sets up pilot treatment program for the homeless

By Ramona du Houx

The Maine State Legislature enacted Rep. Drew Gattine’s proposal June 21, 2018 to help homeless gain access to addiction therapy. The vote was unanimous in the House and 16-15 in the Senate.

This is a civil rights issue.

“Opioid addiction has unique and particularly devastating impacts on Mainers who are already vulnerable and at risk, like the homeless,” said Gattine, D-Westbrook. “In spite of the important things we’ve tried over the past few years, things are getting worse for homeless Mainers.”

 This bill, LD 1711, directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create programs to provide a bundle of services specifically designed to meet the challenges faced by people who are of extremely low income and homeless. It recognizes that people in this vulnerable situation need more than just medical treatment but also social supports, including housing assistance and intensive case management.  As a pilot program, enrollment will be limited to 25 individuals.

“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,” Gattine said. “We need to meet them where they are to have a chance to really help them.” 

The bill now goes to the governor, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Gattine represents part of Westbrook and is in his third term in the Legislature. He serves as the House chair of the Appropriations Committee.