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Bill Designed to Deal with Heroin Epidemic to Be Amended

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers are considering changes to a bipartisan bill backed by legislative leaders to address the state's heroin epidemic. The bill has come under fire from Gov. Paul LePage and other Republicans because of a provision that specifically targets a million dollars for a detox center to be located in Bangor and $700,000 to the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs for peer recovery. Members of the Health and Human Services Committee said Wednesday that they support the governor's position that treatment services be put out to bid. But Pat Kimball, the president of MASAP, says that could cause delays.

"Certainly, we did not ask to be placed in that bill," Kimball says. "That decision was made — I believe the decision was made because we're in a crisis situation. And so if you put that out to bid, opening up recovery centers, which is wants this bill wants to do — open up more recovery centers throughout the state, it's going to be a year-and-a-half in the making."

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, co-sponsor of the bill, says the original objective was to make sure funding gets to providers who can offer treatment as quickly as possible.

"We're open to changes as long as we continue to support an effort to combat the drug crisis that is comprehensive, that includes treatment, prevention, education and law enforcement," says Eves.

Eves says the bill was never intended to benefit one part of the state or a specific group of providers. Committee members indicated in their work session that there might be a way to expedite the bidding process. They're expected to make recommendations on Thursday.