The drug problem in Maine is slowly sprawling out of control. Last year alone, 208 people died from a drug overdose. Analysts argue that the death toll from drug abuse is likely to be higher in 2015. Something needs to be done to ensure that this does not happen.
The drug problem in Maine is hugely attributed to the wrong approach that the State is using to tackle the problem. Governor Paul LePage appears to be a crusader against the vice; however, his administration’s approach is where the whole problem lies. The governor hopes that he will win the fight by increasing the number of prosecutors, drug agents and judges. The governor is non-committal on matters that have to do with treatment and rehabilitation.
In truth, drug abuse and misuse is more of a public health issue than a law enforcement issue. Gov. LePage’s approach is silently supported by the political class who view that his approach is an effective way to deal with the drug problem in Maine.
Since the drug fighting strategy in Maine appears unfruitful, it is highly advised that the governor looks south and copies what the Massachusetts governor is doing. Governor Charlie Baker has one of the most ambitious plans for fighting opiate addiction in Massachusetts.
Opiate addiction is not unique to Maine, matter of fact; Massachusetts has also faced similar challenges in the past. The State recorded over 1000 drug overdose-related deaths in the past year alone. In both States, opiate addiction is attributed to the fact that people hooked to prescription painkillers found heroin to be a cheaper option.
Same as in Maine, deaths from drug overdose have increased in Massachusetts in the previous years. In response to this, the governor appointed a task force whose mandate was to increase access for treatment and end stigma that is associated with drug addiction.
The governor’s strategy has been met with support. The State has allocated $27.8 million and an additional $6.7 million to finance the ambitious plan. The proposal seeks to increase the money reimbursed for recovery houses, remove those that have been committed because of drug abuse from prison to treatment facilities and finance school programs aimed at sensitizing school going kids on the dangers of using drugs.
The funding will also go towards creating a database with treatment options, allowing for better prescription monitoring. This will also help law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws related to prescription and treatment of opiate addicts. Additionally, the proposal aims at fostering partnerships between health centers and correctional facilities ensuring that inmates receive the much needed treatment. Finally, the plan creates a position of assistant secretary to the commissioner of health and human services whose task is to oversee the implementation of this ambitious plan.
Clearly, I feel LePage has his priorities all mixed up. The governor believes in using a law enforcement solution to solve a public health problem. LePage’s strategy is not helping in dealing with the drug problem. The state is spending a lot of money on the fight against opiate addiction but in wrong places. LePage has proved unwilling to listen to Democrats who advise for a balanced approach in the fight against drug addiction. It is hoped that perhaps he will listen to Gov. Baker before things become worse.