The opioid epidemic is devastating Maine’s communities, with deaths rising by 40 percent in 2016. New data for 2017 shows that the crisis is only getting worse in Maine, with 418 overdose deaths – an 11 percent increase over the previous year. Nationwide, the numbers are stark: opioids are now claiming more American lives annually than car accidents. Congress must hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for marketing practices that mislead the American public about the risks of highly addictive prescription drugs.
There are simple solutions our state can take to help solve this problem. Expanding Medicaid in Maine will provide funding for mental health and substance abuse disorder programs so we can help people overcome drug dependence.
In Washington, I will advocate for increased funding for preventive measures and substance abuse disorder treatments by proposing the following steps:
- Increase funding for education and drug prevention programs in schools and communities.
- Strengthen and expand drug take-back programs so we can get unwanted or unnecessary prescription drugs out of homes.
- Address prescribing practices to limit opioid access.
- Hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for flooding markets with highly addictive prescription drugs.
2) Treatment and Recovery
- Increase access to life-saving medications like Naloxone.
- Support programs that increase public awareness of treatment and recovery options for addiction and substance abuse disorder.
- Increase funding and access to treatment opportunities, and provide those in need with more sustainable options for recovery.
- Establish and expand both outpatient and inpatient recovery services to assist those seeking treatment.
- Fully expand Medicaid in Maine, and increase reimbursement rates.
- Work with providers to treat the opioid epidemic’s youngest victims – newborn children who are born drug dependent.
- Support research and discovery of new and novel treatments for addiction and substance abuse disorder.
3) Law Enforcement
- Ensure law enforcement agencies prioritize the arrest and prosecution of drug dealers and traffickers over users.
- Fund pre-charge diversion programs and drug courts to ensure people get treatment opportunities rather than prison and jail sentences.
- Create and expand treatment and recovery options in correctional facilities for those serving prison and jail sentences.