Group scrambling to find funds for substance abuse programs after Maine ends $570,000 contract

Associated Press

A substance abuse provider organization is scrambling to find funding for two prevention and recovery programs that it says will come to a halt because one of its long-standing contracts with the state is being terminated.

Ruth Blauer, executive director of the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs — which was recently notified that a more than $570,000 state contract that has been in place for 13 years will end on Dec. 31 — said thousands of Maine residents will be affected if she can't find private donors or another way to keep the programs running.

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"I'm hoping that ... we will be able to piece something together to at least get these programs moving again because there are just so many people in the state that they impact," Blauer said. She said she was told that the administration no longer needs the programs' services.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the state regularly makes contract changes, "based on the needs of those we serve, the needs of the department and the performance of the contractors."

David Sorensen said the state determined that it "can meet its needs more efficiency" through three state positions, which are being developed, instead of the five contractor positions funded under the agreement.

The loss of the contract will primarily affect two programs run through Blauer's group, including the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery, which works with communities to provide recovery support services for addicts.

It will eliminate funding for the program's coordinator, who offers peer-based recovery support groups across the state and helps train "recovery coaches" in communities and at the Maine State Prison.

It will also wipe out funding for the coordinator of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse, which works with agencies across the state to create education programs, primarily focused on preventing alcohol and drug use among young people.

The disappearance of these programs would be a "huge loss to the citizens of the state," Blauer said.

LePage has come under fire from some providers and Democrats for focusing too heavily on enforcement instead of treatment in addressing Maine's drug epidemic. LePage, who plans to hold a drug summit with law enforcement officials this month, says there's adequate funding for substance abuse treatment, but that the state needs more drug enforcement agents.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves said in a recent letter to the governor that he was troubled by the decision to end the contracts, saying the drug crisis calls for a comprehensive approach and that "substance abuse treatment alone or law enforcement alone won't get us over the finish line."

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