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Fund For A Healthy Maine Study Can't Answer Basic Questions

The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee has held four meeting to explore how the more than $50 million a year is spent by the Fund For a Healthy Maine. That's money that the state gets as its share of the lawsuit against the tobacco companies for misleading claims about cigarettes.

The panel's co-chairman, Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat from Westbrook, says the panel was frustrated by a lack of cooperation from the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Unless the department comes and tells us how its spending the money and how it is holding vendors accountable, you know, we can't even really assess the extent to which that is true or not true," Gattine says.

He says they got cooperation from the vendors providing various services funded by the program, but could not get the answers they sought from the department. The panel is recommending the department be required to provide a detailed annual report to the Legislature on how and why the money is spent.

"It was kind of disheartening and frustrating, and a lot of what we spent the last four meetings doing here was figuring out what we didn't have, as opposed to assessing the information that was given to us," he says.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.