Governor Mills: Expanding Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Rural Maine

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Maine remains within the crushing grip of an unrelenting opioid epidemic. This is an epidemic which began decades ago, and which has now worsened from the effects of the pandemic and specifically the increased presence of dangerous, highly lethal drugs like fentanyl. It’s an epidemic that is killing a record number of Maine people – people who are our family, friends, and neighbors.

When I took office, I launched a coordinated response — something new to our state — a response to the opioid epidemic that broke down the silos of state government and targeted every available state and federal resource to stop drugs from reaching Maine; to prevent addiction at an early age; to treat addiction when we couldn’t prevent it; to set people on a life-long path to recovery – and above all else, to save lives.

To prevent addiction from an early age, we have trained school staff and childcare providers to teach children the skills they need to manage their emotions, to resolve conflicts, and to make safe choices in life. 

To prevent fatal opioid overdoses, we have distributed several hundred thousand doses of Naloxone statewide. And keep in mind, the number of people saved by Naloxone and intervention is far, far greater than the number of people who unfortunately died from an overdose.

To expand treatment options, we have expanded MaineCare. So far, MaineCare expansion has covered substance use disorder treatment for more than 22,000 Maine people suffering from addiction.

To set people on a path to lifelong recovery, we have supported 17 different recovery community centers and 16 recovery residences, and we have trained more than 1,000 recovery coaches across the state. 

These are just the few of the actions we have taken, but recently I announced another step we are taking to expand treatment options for substance use disorders, especially in rural Maine.

I’ve now dedicated $1.9 million to behavioral health providers for start-up costs, like staff training and development, allowing them to increase the number of patients they serve in rural areas of the state. This new initiative complements our State funding for renovation and capital costs that I announced in July to increase the number of available beds for residential treatment and medically supervised withdrawal in Maine.

This funding is also in addition to an historic $230 million investment in behavioral health through our biennial budget — a bipartisan budget — to support the workforce, capacity, and resilience of substance use and mental health providers as well as sustainable MaineCare rates into the future. It is also in addition to the $20 million in my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan that is increasing Maine’s health care workforce.

For all the Maine people impacted by substance use disorders, whose lives are disrupted, or destroyed by drugs, for all those who have lost a loved one to this epidemic since it began – know that we will not give up.

We won’t quit until every person in our state is able to become their best selves – the best that they can be, whatever their past, whatever their troubles, whatever their needs.

We have a long way to go towards healing our state from the opioid epidemic, but to me, there is always hope and there is the hard work of Maine people. The hard work and the hope that have seen us through hard times before.  

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.