Maine Could Lose Critical Drug Abuse Prevention Program Over Funding Issues

By McCarton Ackerman 02/12/15

The two-person operation has resorted to taking PayPal donations to stay afloat.

broke empty pocket.jpg

Maine health care providers could soon lose a critical program, which helps them identify patients who are abusing or illegally distributing prescription drugs.

The state’s Diversion Alert Program (DAP) was first introduced in 2009 before being expanded statewide in 2013. The program distributes a monthly list to registered prescribers, pharmacists, and law enforcement agencies of people either summoned or arrested for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes in each public health district. It differs from Maine’s Prescription Monitoring Program because that program indicates when a patient’s behavior could indicate misuse, but not when they’ve been formally charged.

DAP is just a two-person operation led by Clare Desrosiers and operated out of her home. The program has been run off a $95,000 annual budget, but Desrosiers has been unsuccessful in obtaining additional funding and her two-year pilot project ends next month.

Desrosiers has already submitted over 10 grant applications, but has just $23,000 left of the budget. She can only keep the program going until June, but is willing to run the program herself on an annual budget of $57,000.

“We really are a bare bones operation. I work out of my home, and my colleague worked out of her home. We do not rent office space or have a huge staff,” explained Desrosiers. "It’s a difficult time to apply. There is not a lot of money out there.” She is currently accepting donations for the program via PayPal on DAP’s website.

Those who participate in DAP have reported finding the program to be helpful with their operations. A survey of 1,084 respondents conducted in 2013-14 by Astos Evaluation found that 84% reported “improved attentiveness to prescribing practices for all of their patients” as a result. Of that 84%, nearly 82% were prescribers.

“Doctors have told me of the value of this program,” said Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association. “We see Diversion Alert as one more piece of information out there, and I do believe it is valuable for the particularly small amount of investment.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.