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Maine Bill Would Allow Pilot Project For Treating Vulnerable Opioid Addicts

Fifty of Maine's most vulnerable residents who are addicted to opioids would get access to treatment under a bill that the Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee is considering Wednesday.

Dr. Renee Fay-Leblanc, chief medical officer of Greater Portland Health, says the bill establishes a pilot project that would also provide stable housing.

"This bill will allow patients to get to a place where they can be successful in traditional substance use programs, and it will save lives," Fay-Leblanc says.

Mark Swann, the executive director of Preble Street, a Portland social service agency, says many clients ask for help with their addiction, but staff are unable to place them in treatment. 

"Treatment programs barely exist, and those that do are mostly for people with insurance," Swann says. "And the majority of our clients don't have insurance, don't have Medicaid, so over and over again, they are denied treatment."

Swann says his staff now responds to one overdose every eight days.

The bill is sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.  The cost of the pilot project has not been determined.