Recovery Program Proposed For Homeless Population In Maine

By Victoria Kim 01/18/18

The proposed pilot project would offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT), stable housing and mental health services to 50 homeless individuals.

a man with cutoff gloves holding hands out for help.

A Maine lawmaker has teamed up with a Portland-based non-profit to propose a pilot project that would focus on supporting homeless individuals in need of help for substance use disorder. 

The H.O.U.S.E. bill (L.D. 1711) is the result of a collaboration between Rep. Drew Gattine and the Preble Street non-profit that serves Portland’s homeless population. Gattine was approached by Preble Street, which has seen firsthand the impact of substance use disorder, especially among the homeless. 

“We keep talking about it but clearly we are not doing enough,” said Gattine, according to the Portland Press Herald. “This bill seeks to address the problem the people at Preble Street brought to me, but it is a statewide problem.”

The organization has struggled to keep up with the increasing number of drug overdoses they’ve seen in their downtown location. “For us, it is as real and as tragic as it comes,” said Mark Swann, Preble Street’s executive director, in a statement. “[Every single day] people plead with us for housing and treatment options… And we can barely offer them even a glimmer of hope.”

In 2017, they reported responding to a drug overdose once every eight days, on average. 

There were 376 drug overdose deaths recorded in Maine in 2016. The total for 2017 is still being tallied, but preliminary numbers don’t offer much hope.

“This catastrophic public health crisis has deadly consequences to the people Preble Street serves,” said the non-profit in a recent statement. “Homeless individuals with substance use disorder have difficulty accessing traditional care—100% of people who overdosed at Preble Street sought treatment but there was none available.”

The bill would establish a program under the state’s Department of Health and Human Services that would offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT), stable housing and mental health services to 50 homeless individuals.

By providing housing and access to medications like Suboxone and methadone, the bill hopes to provide a “social support network” that is crucial to recovery, homeless or not. The idea is that by providing a sense of stability, the individuals in the program can be free to focus on addressing their addiction issues.

The program would focus on one urban and one rural area of Maine, according to the Portland Press Herald

The editorial board of one of Maine’s largest media networks, MaineToday Media—which oversees the Portland Press Herald and the Morning Sentinel—voiced its support for L.D. 1711 in a recent editorial.

“Because homelessness and addiction are often so firmly linked, they must be addressed together,” it read. “And because addiction is such an outsized problem among the homeless, it makes sense to target them in the larger fight against opioid abuse.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr