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Maine Could Eliminate Residential Treatment

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Budget cuts in Maine may soon force the closure of 10 out of 13 residential treatment centers, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported March 9.

Maine governor Paul Le Page is proposing to cut $5.6 million from the state’s substance abuse treatment programs. Most treatment providers say the cuts will be so deep that they will have to stop operating.

“It’s the classic pennywise-pound foolish, because we treat people at less than half the cost of the corrections community,” said Roger Prince of Serenity House, a substance abuse treatment program that is over 40 years old.

“So what do we want to do? Do we want to close this place down and send [our clients] back to jail or to the emergency room? It makes no sense to me,” he said.

According to a March 9 story in the Bangor Daily News, 40 percent of the Wellspring treatment program’s budget, or over $500,000, will vanish with the cuts. “There is no way I can make that up from other sources,” said Pat Kimball, the agency’s executive director.

“People who need residential care are the most chronically ill people in the state,” she said. “If we close our doors today, over half our clients would return to jail, one-third would be homeless and only 13 percent would be able to live with family or friends.”

The state cuts, combined with federal funds that require state match and federal grants set to expire, would slash the budget for Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse from $37 million to $24 million.

“We are trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got in front of us,” said Gary Cousins, who directs the agency. “These are not the decisions we want to make; they are the ones we have to make.” He said the cuts had nothing to do with agency performance.

Although the state will no longer fund residential treatment, it will continue to fund outpatient treatment fund and three emergency detox programs in Aroostook County, Bangor and Portland. Maine residents who need more will have to rely on 12-step meetings and other informal recovery supports.

“These people cannot survive in outpatient care,” Kimball said.

Manna, Inc., will lose 1 million dollars — 100 percent of the budget for its two residential programs. “The Office of Substance Abuse is not trying to close our doors; they’re just taking away all our funding,” said Manna’s director, Bill Rae. 

“They are taking away the choices people need to get clean, and it’s deplorable,” he said.

The legislature was expected to discuss the proposal March 11.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Editor’s note, March 15, 2011: Our news summary originally said that Maine’s rate of alcohol and drug addiction was eight times higher than the national rate. This figure was based on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network article which said that finding came from a federal report. We have not been able to confirm the statistic; therefore, we have removed the phrase regarding a high rate of alcohol and drug addiction in Maine.

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