Maine Will Use Emergency Funding for Opioid Treatment
Maine has decided to allocate most of its federal emergency money towards opioid treatment. The state was awarded $1.4 million and spent approximately $585,000 on treatment and prevention from May 2017 through April 2018. Lawmakers passed Medicaid expansion five times, but Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoed each, blocking the efforts due to fiscal concerns.
The emergency money from Congress was part of a two-year, $1 billion grant program that was distributed according to a formula allowing states with more overdose deaths and treatment needs to receive more. Each state is taking a different approach to spending their allotments under the 21st Century Cures Act grant program.
Maine ranked eighth for overdoses last year and was fourth among states for how much it allocated to opioid treatment services: 81.9 percent. Drug overdose deaths in the state reached 418 in 2017, and there were 180 for the first six months of 2018.
Malory Shaughnessy, executive director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, said it was “misguided” for Maine to have refused to expand Medicaid, and this should have been the focus for the funding. “These dollars could have been used for recovery efforts and ancillary services in recovery that folks are looking at across the country,” she explained.
Democratic candidate for governor, Janet Mills, also accused LePage of “obstructing the will of the people.” Thirty-three states have made the decision to expand Medicaid, which covers four out of ten adults under age 65 with opioid addiction. An estimated six out of ten Mainers voted to expand Medicaid, but the referendum lacked a funding mechanism for the state’s share.
“I agree with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce that Medicaid expansion is good for business and good for the people of Maine,” Mills said. “It will improve the health of Mainers. It will inject millions of dollars into our economy. It will create jobs, lower health care costs for Maine people and keep our rural hospitals open.”
Her opponent, Shawn Moody, disagreed. Moody’s view is more in line with LePage’s efforts, and he said he would implement Medicaid expansion in a more “responsible” way. “I will implement and enforce the law with sustainable and responsible funding from the Legislature. Our view is the debate at this point centers around the funding mechanism. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Legislature to appropriate the funds. I do not believe that a sustainable and responsible funding plan requires raising taxes, raiding the state’s rainy-day fund, or using other one-time budget gimmicks. Adequate funding means that we do not jeopardize the long-term fiscal health of the state,” Moody said.
Maine plans to spend $1.2 million on opioid treatment services provided by seven state-based providers. It also plans to direct about $238,000 on prevention efforts led by the University of New England and Rinck Advertising and $26,000 on recovery services provided by Healthy Acadia.
States that chose to expand Medicaid services spent $1,581 per patient, on average, for treatment. States that did not expand Medicaid spent $2,645 per patient on opioid addiction treatment, while Maine spent $721 on average.