Drug Czar Grants Maine $7.5 Million to Tackle Opioid Abuse

By Victoria Kim 10/14/14

Nineteen communities in the state will receive federal funds to fight substance abuse.

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The U.S. drug czar announced that Maine will receive $7.5 million in funding to fight opioid abuse on a visit to the state last week.

Speaking to a town hall forum about the state’s opioid epidemic in Bangor, Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced that 19 community coalitions in Maine will receive $7.5 million to fight substance abuse.

Under the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, a total of $84 million will be awarded to 680 program grantees this year, including the communities in Maine. The program, under the ONDCP, is motivated by the philosophy that local drug problems require local solutions.

In Portland, where the drug czar visited people in recovery and their family members at the Portland Recovery Community Center, Botticelli said communities must focus on access to jobs, housing, and education for those with criminal records related to substance abuse.

The drug czar, who has been public about his own recovery from alcoholism, emphasized that addiction is a disease and that the stigma surrounding it is harmful, preventing people from seeking opportunities for a new start.

Botticelli’s remarks reflect the Obama administration’s approach to drug policy, which favors prevention over incarceration. “We can’t arrest and incarcerate our way out of this problem,” he said earlier on his visit.

Botticelli explained that this draconian approach has resulted in high recidivism rates and crippling expenses for courts and jails across the country. He said his office has worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide better access to housing for those who are released from jail, as well as the Department of Education to help people with criminal records obtain financial aid and loans.

Botticelli said he chose Maine to highlight the program’s approach to preventing drug abuse because, like many other states, it is in the midst of a substance abuse problem spurred by prescription painkillers.

In 2012, Maine doctors wrote 21.8 prescriptions per 100 residents for long-term, extended-release opiate medications such as OxyContin, which is more than twice the national average of 10.3 prescriptions per 100 people, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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