Work session on drug crisis response

The Appropriations committee met this morning to conduct a work session on LD 1537, “An Act To Combat Drug Addiction through Enforcement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery”.

Audio of today’s work session is here.

Part 1
Part 2

Audio of Tuesday’s public hearing is here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Testimony from Tuesday is here.

Report backs from the policy committees were considered.

Criminal Justice supported the bill as drafted by a vote of 10-2.

Votes against seem to be motivated by a misunderstanding of the need for funding for the 10 Maine Drug Enforcement Agents.

Health and Human Services supported an amended bill by a vote of 6-2.

The amendments include:

  • Broadening the geographic area to “northern or eastern Maine with high rates of opiod use and accessible to related services and supports” from “the greater Bangor area.”
  • “a 10 bed” detoxification center to “with at least 10 beds”.
  • Direct the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to periodically report to the Health and Human Services committee (HHS) about the implementation of detoxification beds
  • Clarified that the contract for peer support recovery centers will be issued to a “statewide organization with expertise and experience in substance abuse prevention, treatment and peer recovery services” instead of a named entity. The contract will be issued within 60 days of the effective date of the legislation.
  • In addition to the purposes listed in the bill the centers are to be responsible for:
    • Linking people in recovery to career resources
    • Maintain and make available a directory of substance abuse providers and prevention and recovery resources

Rep. Sanderson provided her own letter from afar. The Department also provided a response to questions it had received.

The Judiciary committee also indicted their support, weighing in particularly on a request from the Judicial branch to be allowed to use $240,000 in Personal Services savings for the All Other expenses related to reducing the existing backlog of criminal trials.

Led by Sen. Valentino, the Appropriations committee discussed reducing the funding transferred from the Gambling Control Board from the proposed $1.6M to $1.23M based on the actual cost of providing 10 additional agents. The funds provided may not be either transferred or lapsed in the current biennium. The committee further requires that the Commissioner of Public Safety report progress on this effort to both the Appropriations and Criminal Justice and Public Safety committees.

Amended as noted above, Part A was unanimously approved.

Turning to Part B, Rep. Nutting suggested that responsibility for issuing grants for local treatment initiatives move from the Office of the Attorney General to the Commissioner of Public Safety. AFA did not resolve this matter today.

The rest of Part B was unanimously approved unanimously.

Part G, concerning the request of the Judicial branch was also unanimously approved.

Addressing Part C, Rep. Winsor raised concerns about the use of the word “grants” and what appeared to be his discomfort with the subjective nature of the terms “northern” or “eastern”.

These matters were not resolved either.

The rest of Part C was unanimously approved.

Part D providing resources to increase the availability of peer support recovery centers was also not resolved.

Rep. Sanborn proposed that Part E be amended to make it clear that individual, group and intensive services are included.

Discussion on Part F centered on the source of funding. The Office of the Attorney General provided a suggested amendment.

No resolution was reached on either Parts D or E either.

The committee will reconvene Tuesday afternoon.

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