Radio Address: Sen. Dill says Opioid Task Force recommendations would boost recovery, save lives

Posted: December 15, 2017 | Senator Dill, Weekly Radio Address

More Americans have died from the current drug addiction and overdose epidemic than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. Future generations will regard this public health crisis as a defining feature of this era of American life. It’s time for action.

Hi. This is Senator Jim Dill from Old Town. Thanks for tuning in.

Here in Maine, it seems each year brings more death than the last. One Mainer died from overdose every day last year — and then some. I’ve spend nine months working on a Task Force designed to find solutions. Our group includes legislators, medical professionals, law enforcement officials and experts in addiction and recovery.

This week, we finalized a set of unanimous recommendations to increase recovery and save Maine lives. Our recommendations include a comprehensive approach to address the addiction epidemic at all levels.

Prevention and education must start with families. We recommend increased support for programs that help children affected by their parents’ addiction, including drug-affected babies whose mothers used opioids while they were pregnant. We also recommend a renewed emphasis on education in schools and drug take-back programs that keep prescriptions off the black market.

Treatment must be the cornerstone of any plan to tackle the addiction crisis. So we recommend the state immediately increase funding for treatment across the state. We also endorsed expansion of the proven successful “Hub and Spoke” treatment model. Under this model, a “hub” facility such as a large hospital provides intensive, initial treatment to kickstart a patient’s recovery. The hub coordinates ongoing treatment and care with several “spokes” distributed throughout the region, such as primary care practices and smaller clinics.

The Task Force also made several recommendations to increase health insurance rates so that a lack of coverage is not a barrier to treatment. We know recovery also requires a stable, supportive environment, so we recommend legislation to offer high-quality recovery residences to Mainers working to get healthy again.

Lastly, we recognize addiction is a disease, not a crime. So our task force endorsed reforms at all stages of the criminal justice process. Those include pre-charge diversion programs, specialized drug courts and programs to ensure a smooth transition out of jail and into treatment. By focusing on treatment and rehabilitation, we can support recovery and decrease the likelihood they’ll return to prison.

There are several bills in the Legislature already, and our recommendations include several others that could be considered this year.

None of us is far from the drug crisis. We are all only one or two steps removed from someone who is suffering or who is in recovery. This Task Force is not the first group to study this problem and make recommendations. Other priorities have competed for our attention. Other needs have competed for resources. But what could be a higher priority than saving Maine lives?

We know what we need to do. It’s time to take action.

This is Senator Jim Dill. Thanks for tuning in.