Substance Abuse in Maine

A history of legislation, special initiatives and other events


The Legislature created the Liquor Research Commission whose purpose was to study the effects of alcohol consumption in Maine.


The Liquor Research Commission recommended that the State increase its education efforts and the 95th Legislature appropriated $25,000 to the Commission for the establishment of education centers.


The Legislature repealed the statutory authorization for the Liquor Research Commission and transferred the Commission's responsibilities to the State's Commissioner of Health and Welfare (currently Department of Human Services). An Advisory Council on Alcohol was created to assist the Commissioner.


The Division of Alcohol Services was established in the Department of Human Services (DHS).


A commitment law was enacted allowing individuals suffering from alcohol or drug abuse to be committed to any hospital for up to 90 days.


The Legislature appropriated funds to the Department of Health and Welfare to pay for an alcohol counselor within the court system.


The Hughes Act was passed by Congress, requiring that states establish a single agency to administer alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs in order to receive federal grant monies.


The Interagency Commission on Drug Abuse was established to coordinate state efforts to deal with problems of drug abuse and to make grants to local communities. Membership included State Commissioners and Directors. It was placed in the Executive Department {5 MRSA, Ch 379, part 10}.

June, 1970

The Maine Drug Education Program was created funded by the US Office of Education, Maine Bureau of Mental Health, and the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services.


The Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Act coordinated planning and operation of all state drug abuse services, which now included alcohol.

The Division of Alcoholism Services was established as part of the Bureau of Rehabilitation, DHS.

A 17-member council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention was appointed, and a committee of state officials coordinated policy.

Public intoxication was no longer considered a crime {22 MRSA, Ch 254 ss1361, (1980)}.

The Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention (OADAP) was created in the Department of Human Services and became the single state agency for eligibility for federal funds and developed a plan creating five planning regions and their respective Regional Councils.


The Driver Rehabilitation Course (DRC) was established as part of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Administration shifted focus from alcohol/drug prevention to programs developed by newly created Human Development and Guidance Division.


DRC was renamed Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) and transferred to DHS.


The Division of Alcohol and Drug Education Services (DADES) created, in cooperation with the Bureau of Safety, Maine's Alcohol, Other Drug and Highway Safety Prevention/Intervention Program.


First school/community team training institute conducted by DADES to help schools and communities help themselves address problems associated with alcohol and other drugs.

June, 1980

The Maine Drug Education Program was created, funded jointly by the U.S. Office of Education and Maine's Bureau of Mental Health and Department of Education.


Oxford Hills school and community team in South Paris formed chemical free graduation celebrations in response to 7 alcohol and other drug related deaths of teens in the graduation season of 1979. They termed it 'Project Graduation.'


"An Act Promoting Alcoholism Prevention, Education, Treatment and Research" established a premium tax that was placed on alcoholic beverages (1 cent per ounce of alcohol) to ensure that programs are adequately supported {28A MRSA, ' 1702 (1988)}.


Commissioners of the Department of Corrections, Department of Educational and Cultural Services, Department of Human Services and Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation were required to jointly prepare and submit a report on alcoholism prevention, education, treatment and research to the Legislature every session.


Project Graduation expanded statewide (to 36 sites).

"Strategies to Enhance the Effectiveness of Alcoholism Services in Maine Public and Private Agencies" produced by Foundation Associates (a.k.a. "The Meadows Report") was submitted to Maine State Legislature. It utilized national statistics and estimates of Maine substance abuse professionals to assess the costs and impact of alcohol abuse in Maine.


Legislation required the establishment of a data collection system for research, needs assessment, program evaluation, and reporting on enforcement of laws relating to drinking and driving.

Statewide Youth Drinking, Drugging & Driving Conference held.

The Driver Education and Evaluation Program (DEEP) became a division within the Bureau of Rehabilitation within the Department of Human Services.

OADAP funded community-based prevention programs.

July, 1983

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Planning Committee (ADPC) composed of the commissioners of DOC, DOE, DHS, and MHMR was created to coordinate planning among the various state departments who received prevention, treatment and/or enforcement funds (excluding law enforcement).

A 25-member Maine Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (appointed by the Governor) was established to advise, assist, and consult on substance abuse matters (5 MRSA ch521 subchap IV-Repealed 1993 c.410 ssLL-11)


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a National Project Graduation Conference in Springfield, Illinois.


The Premium Fund was doubled to 2 cents per ounce and was earmarked to expand and continue alcoholism prevention, education, treatment and research programs {28A MRSA, ss1702 (1988)}.

The Maine Alcohol and Drug Abuse Clearinghouse (DHS) conducted prevention campaigns, including collaborative work with the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation on Fetal Alcohol Effects/Syndrome.

Maine's Project Graduation was featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Morbidity and Mortality Report. Project Graduation was held in all 50 United States, and 139 high schools in Maine (97%) participated.

The federal Drug Free Schools and Communities Act was established, having numerous effects on state programs: drug abuse prevention and education programs coordinated with community efforts and resources, community-based prevention programs, high-risk youth programs, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), Replication of Successful Drug Education Programs, etc.


The Governor established a Cabinet Committee on Substance Abuse (consisting of the former ADPC with the addition of Public Safety). Comprised of Commissioners from the Departments of Corrections, Educational and Cultural Services, Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Human Services, and Public Safety, the Committee was responsible for integrating efforts regarding substance-abuse prevention, education, treatment, and law enforcement activities (P.L. 1983, Ch 464, amended in 1988).

DEEP was transferred back to OADAP within DHS with enabling legislation to establish/define programs for individuals who commit alcohol and drug related motor vehicle offenses.

The first Blaine House Conference on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Education, Treatment and Law Enforcement was held in November; 150 key decision makers from throughout the state were invited to participate.


Maine was recognized at the National Drug Free Schools and Communities Recognition Program ceremony for its state model, leadership and service.

November, 1988

The second Blaine House Conference on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Education, Treatment and Law Enforcement was held; Maine citizens were invited to review and comment on 17 model programs.

January, 1989.

The Department of Corrections released an interdepartmental Primary Prevention Committee Report (mandated by the Legislature in 1987). The report recognized that substance abuse was one of the self-destructive behaviors that brought children and youth to the attention of social service agencies.


The Maine Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act established the Office of Substance Abuse (OSA) within the Executive Department, directly responsible to the Governor. Its mandate included the adoption of an integrated and comprehensive approach to substance abuse and the establishment of a single administrative unit within state government. The committee of 5 commissioners in ADPC was designated the Substance Abuse Advisory Group. {5 MRSA, 20004, see historical notes (2002)}

The Premium Fund was "undedicated," meaning its proceeds were now placed into state General Funds, however, a provision was added to the premium tax law stating that the amounts allocated to OSA from the General Fund could not be less than the amounts collected under the premium tax. {28A MRSA, ss1703 (1988)}.


The statutory provisions governing involuntary commitment of persons for alcohol and drug abuse treatment was not retained.

The Student Assistance Team Unit in the Maine Department of Education was created.

Winter, 1990

Major state budget cuts occurred.

Spring 1990

OSA began to "establish the overall plans, policies, objectives and priorities for all state substance abuse prevention and treatment functions..."

January, 1991

OSA released its first biennial plan for alcohol and other drug abuse services.

Fall, 1991

OSA was given increased responsibility for training, DEEP, and the Maine Alcohol and Drug Abuse Clearinghouse from DHS.

OSA coordinated Clearinghouse activities with the Resource Center that was located in the Department of Education (DOE) (5 MRSA, Ch 521).


Congress amended the Public Health Service Act to include Section 1926, which is also known as the Synar Amendment. States that are noncompliant with that law can have their Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant reduced by up to 40%. Maine must report yearly to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on progress in reducing tobacco sales to youth. Requirements of this law include restricting access to youth of tobacco products and conducting annual random, unannounced inspections of tobacco sellers. {42 USCA ss300x-26}


OSA was given responsibility by the Legislature to administer all state substance abuse programs, including those previously run by the Departments of Education, Corrections, and Mental Health/Mental Retardation.

A 17 member Substance Abuse Services Commission (replacing the 1983 Council) was established by Legislation. Members were appointed by the Governor to advise, consult and assist the Governor, the executive and legislative branches of state government and Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court with activities of state government related to drug abuse including alcoholism. {5 MRSA, Ch 521, subchapter IV-A, 20065 (2002)}.


All substance abuse programs were consolidated within the Office of Substance Abuse. Division of Alcohol and Drug Education within the Department of Education was moved to OSA. OSA created the Prevention and Education Division. Drug Free Schools and Communities Act personnel and programs were moved to OSA (under a Memorandum of Understanding with DOE).

The Clearinghouse (OSA) and Resource Center (DADES) became the Information and Resource Center.

OSA was given responsibility to prevent youth access to tobacco products through federal regulation.


Legislature passed LD 845 "An Act to Reduce Tobacco Use by Juveniles." This law enabled Maine to better comply with the Synar Amendment by enacting several changes to tobacco control in Maine including a retail licensure procedure, and making possession by a juvenile a civil violation. {PL, Ch 470 and 5 MRSA ch521 ss20002(2002)}

OSA was moved from the Executive Branch of state government into the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS). OSA was created as a distinct unit within the DMHMRSAS and as the sole agency responsible for administering the "Maine Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act." {5 MRSA, 20004, historical notes (2002)}

Governor Angus King, Jr. issued an Executive Order creating the Task Force on Adolescent Suicide and Self-Destructive Behaviors. The group recommended a comprehensive plan of action for the State of Maine to prevent self-destructive behavior in youth and to intervene and treat such behavior should it occur.


The Task Force report on Adolescent Suicide was issued by the Task Force, outlining recommendations for the State of Maine. The Office of Substance Abuse Prevention Team and Information and Resource Center staff serve on the implementation group for the recommendations, as well as house the suicide prevention resource center.


The Portland Press Herald published an 8 part series on alcohol, focusing attention on the damage alcohol causes for Maine's citizens and communities.

The first Statewide Random Unannounced Inspections of Maine tobacco vendors occurred, with a collaborative effort of OSA, DHS and the Attorney Generals Office in order to meet the Synar Amendment requirements (see 1992). Previous reports in 1994 and 1995 included data from federal ASSIST inspections.

Spring, 1998

A Joint Task Force on Substance Abuse was created to conduct a comprehensive study of substance abuse problems in Maine. Its charge was to review issues related to substance abuse, to determine how to address these issues in a coordinated fashion, and to recommend changes in policies. Members of this task force included the Joint Select Committee on Substance Abuse of the 118th Maine Legislature and the Substance Abuse Services Commission.

November, 1998

"The Largest Hidden Tax: Substance Abuse in Maine" is published outlining 42 recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Substance Abuse.

Fall, 1998

"Maine Youth Voices" was created with funding from a federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for the prevention of underage drinking. This project involves youth in communities across the state as they develop prevention activities that address the norms within their communities regarding underage drinking.


The Driver Education and Evaluation Program implemented a new program for youth offenders entitled "Moving Ahead."

In August, the Office of Substance Abuse received a second underage drinking grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to establish an Underage Drinking Task Force, which began its work in November 1999. 


OSA received $5.7 million in Tobacco Settlement funds as part of the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

April, 2000

Maine Youth Voices is highlighted through a Maine PBS broadcast. Four groups worked with Maine PBS to develop and film public service announcements with a prevention theme. This PBS broadcast won a Parent's Choice silver medal. PBS continued this project as an annual show working with different youth groups each year.

October, 2000

First Lady Mary Herman led a Town Hall Meeting in Gardiner to kick off the Governor's Spouses initiative "Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free." At this same event, the Maine Underage Drinking Task Force released their report and recommendations.

January, 2001

OSA receives a $400,000 Underage Drinking Discretionary Grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to fund nine community coalitions in their efforts to increase the effectiveness of enforcement, decrease underage access to alcohol, and change community norms that encourage or support underage drinking.

Sept. 1, 2001

The Driver Education and Evaluation Program implemented its new Risk Reduction Program entitled "Prime for Life" for adult offenders, which replaced both the Weekend Intervention Program and the two-hour Adult Assessment Program.


Juvenile Drug treatment court is established in 5 sites across Maine (Biddeford, Portland, Augusta, West Bath and Bangor).

May, 2001

Statewide Project Sticker Shock campaign begins. This public awareness campaign is designed to reach adults who might purchase and provide alcohol to minors. The campaign has continued each December and each May to increase awareness among adults about the furnishing laws.


Adult Drug Court began providing services to adults involved with the criminal justice system in six counties in Maine including Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, Penobscot, Washington, and York. The Differentiated Substance Abuse Treatment program (DSAT) was designed to separate offenders by severity of addiction and provide a treatment intensity and duration that meets the need of the offender based on a comprehensive screening.

The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded the Office of Substance Abuse another $400,000 discretionary grant, this time to establish a two-year Higher Education Alcohol Prevention Project (HEAPP).  The HEAPP Project consists of both a statewide initiative that is open to participation by all Institutions of Higher Education in Maine as well as a sub-grant program that provides funding to six Maine colleges for development of effective strategies to reduce/prevent underage and high-risk drinking.

Maine was awarded a 9 million dollar State Incentive Grant for prevention by the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Eighty-five percent of the money will be awarded to "subrecipients" through a Request for Proposal process.

January, 2002

A sixth Juvenile Drug Treatment court is established -- in Lewiston.

The Substance Abuse Services Commission released its report: "Oxycontin Abuse: Maine's Newest Epidemic. Recommendations are outlined to deal with an issue that has seen an increase in Opiate treatment admissions from 528 in 1995 to 1756 in 2001.