Six months ago, lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage came together in a rare show of unity to pass legislation to start to address Maine’s opioid crisis. The bill included funding for additional drug enforcement and prosecution efforts as well as for drug education initiatives and a ten-bed detox unit. As an emergency bill it was supposed to be well underway by now.
Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, a Portland Democrat, says he’s frustrated that little has been done to implement the legislation since it was signed by the Governor.
“So far, this is the middle of the week, and I’ve seen no RFP (request for proposals) issued yet for the detox center for a part of the state that has no detox beds, central and northern Maine,” says Alfond.
Alfond also says that the legislation directed that the RFP be advertised by the end of June and the failure to do so is a tragedy. He says police across the state continue to report record numbers of drug overdoses – taxing the ability of those agencies. The Department of Public Safety has issued an RFP for the million dollars in funding for substance abuse treatment services to be distributed through local law enforcement and the county jails. The time-line for those grants to be issued is in the fall. He says the Department of Health and Human Services has no excuse for not meeting the time-line set out in the law.
Says Alfond, “To tell me and Mainers who are struggling with the drug crisis that it takes seven months to put out an RFP, I think that is ridiculous.”
DHHS says it is working on the RFP and will be issuing one soon.