What They’re Saying: Leaders Praise Governor Mills’ New Initiatives from State of the Budget Address

Leaders, advocates, and experts are praising new initiatives announced by Governor Janet Mills last night to address homelessness, tackle the opioid crisis, and increase clean energy. The Governor announced the initiatives during her State of the Budget Address last night.

The initiatives complement her budget proposal, which continues her free community college initiative for another two years, builds more housing, and strengthens Maine’s health care system through investments in behavioral health, services for older Mainers and people with disabilities. It is balanced, does not raise taxes, and leaves the Rainy Day Fund untouched at a record high of more than $900 million. Leaders across Maine have praised the proposal.

On Her Pledge to Sign “Housing First” Legislation:

“We are thrilled about the Governor’s support of funding to expand the reach of Housing First. For the first time in my nearly 20 years in housing, I have watched as vulnerable individuals we previously could have helped are left powerless and defeated in the face of a crisis-level housing shortage, lack of needed services and exploding rents,” said Amanda Olson, Executive Director, Augusta Housing Authority. “In our local housing task force meetings, development of a Housing First project has been an obvious long-term solution, with funding the only missing link. We thank the Governor for renewing a spirit of hope and optimism in our housing community, that through this funding, we can make transformational change in the lives of those who are unhoused.”

“Homelessness is an urgent, tragic, and solvable crisis that demands immediate action by all levels of governments. Governor Janet Mills has shown tremendous leadership in her commitment to best practices and proven solutions to homelessness,” said Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The proposed Housing First legislation calls for investing in strategies at the scale needed to end chronic homelessness, building on decades of evidence and research about what works best to end homelessness. Maine should serve as a model for how Congress and state and local policymakers can address homelessness nationwide.”

“Governor Mills’ announcement regarding the proposed statewide expansion of the highly regarded Housing First model is exciting,” said Shawn Yardley, Chair of Maine’s Statewide Homeless Council. “It will respond to the statewide need for housing with supports serving the people who have been chronically homeless.”

“Since opening Logan Place in 2005, Preble Street has seen first-hand the positive impacts of site-based housing first programs on individuals and the community. We have a homelessness crisis in Maine and the available shelters and housing simply cannot meet the need, leaving far too many people living outside,” said Mark Swann, Executive Director of Preble Street. “We need scalable initiatives to end homelessness. We know that expanding site-based Housing First programs is key to ending chronic homelessness in Maine and are thrilled to see the Governor taking a solutions-based approach to this problem.”

“The Housing First model is proven to work, with additional funding for support services the last piece of the puzzle to make more of these projects into a reality,” said Dan Brennan, Executive Director of MaineHousing. “Governor Mills’ support of expanding the program will help solve for that, and scale Housing First on a level that is truly meaningful for ending chronic homelessness in Maine.”

“As policymakers come together to tackle the affordable housing crisis, addressing the needs of chronically unhoused people needs to be part of the solution,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, sponsor of the Housing First legislation. “Housing First is an evidence based, cost effective solution that has proven to work in Maine and across the country. Governor Mills’ strong support for Housing First is incredibly encouraging as we work together to find a pathway for ending chronic homelessness in Maine.”

On Achieving 100 Clean Energy by 2040 and other climate action:

“Over the past four years, Maine has become a national leader in addressing climate change by engaging residents across the state in making their communities more resilient and taking bold action on renewable energy to reduce our dependence on expensive fossil fuels,” said Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Today’s announcement that the Governor will introduce a bill to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040 builds on that leadership and serves as an exciting new goal for Maine. We’re also pleased by the proposal to increase funding for the Community Resilience Partnership program because interest in the program to support local climate priorities has far exceeded available resources.” 

“Maine has a breathtaking opportunity to build on the climate progress we’ve made over the past four years,” said Kate Dempsey, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Governor Mills’ budget proposal makes key investments in Maine’s resilience, including additional funding for the Community Resilience Partnership and a commitment to matching federal funds that will catalyze action like culvert replacements across our state. These efforts protect natural resources, improve public safety, and support communities with critical climate planning and funding.”

“Governor Mills continues to demonstrate how a rural state can take bold action to tackle the climate crisis while ensuring a fair and equitable economic transition for our communities,” said Maureen Drouin, Executive Director, Maine Conservation Voters. “By doubling funding for local climate action through the Community Resilience Partnership and setting a goal of developing legislation that will achieve 100% clean energy by 2040, the Mills administration is building a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable future for all Maine people.”

“We applaud Governor Mills’ proposal for additional funding for the Community Resilience Partnership,” said Catherine Conlow, Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association. “With weather-related emergencies increasing in Maine, our municipalities are on the front lines of protecting Maine lives and properties, and the Community Resilience Partnership has been intentionally designed to help communities develop greater resiliency to weather-related events.  Whether it is addressing energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings, protecting watersheds and recreational areas, or developing more resilient infrastructure, this program offers grants and technical assistance for municipalities of all sizes and needs to invest in their climate resilience priorities.”

On efforts to combat the opioid epidemic:

"The OPTIONS Program is one of the best resources available today for law enforcement,” said Tony Milligan, Rumford Police Chief. “It’s a one-stop solution for first-responders and people seeking help for substance use disorder to access a clearinghouse of available options specific to the region.”

“The OPTIONS program changed my life. I connected with our local liaison, Glenn, at my lowest point, and he talked with me without judgment, and treated me with respect,” said Alicia Clukey of Sumner. “He went to meetings with me when I was still unsure and scared. His understanding help saved my life, changed my family, and started me on the journey of recovery. I have the utmost respect for him and the OPTIONS program.”

“Increasing availability of naloxone and our OPTIONS program are critical parts of Maine’s response to opioids, which continue to ravage our families and communities,” said Gordon Smith, the state’s Director of Opioid Response. “Governor Mills’ proposal to further increase our naloxone supply and expand OPTIONS will help offer more Maine people the opportunity to enter recovery, and most important, help keep people alive. These initiatives, coupled with the development of more treatment options, expanding primary prevention programs into schools and communities, and investing historic legal settlements coming to Maine to expand local and regional response programs, are priorities to continue our fight against this epidemic.”

“These initiatives will strengthen Maine’s response to the opioid epidemic by saving lives with naloxone at the scenes of overdoses, making connections with Maine people who are struggling through the OPTIONS program, and expanding treatment capacity that can help them on a path to recovery,” said Sarah Squirrell, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health. “This work is part of the historic investments Governor Mills has proposed in Maine’s behavioral health system in her biennial budget, continuing her commitment to the health and resilience of Maine people and the workforce and capacity of providers.”