Maine Releases Substance Abuse Services Report Card

Augusta, ME — The Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission released the first ever Substance Abuse Services Report Card modeled after a 2006 report, Blueprint for the States: Policies to Improve the Ways States Organize and Deliver Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Treatment, published by Join Together, a program of the Boston University School of Public Health.

Join Together is nationally recognized for its work to advance effective alcohol and drug policy, prevention and treatment. The Blueprint Project is chaired by former Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis.

On the release of the Maine Report Card (PDF), Michael Dukakis praised Maine’s efforts by saying, “Maine has done what we hope all states will do – embrace the Blueprint’s recommendations with a solid action program to deal effectively with the substance abuse problems that are the largest drivers of state government costs and ruined lives. I hope the leadership provided by the Governor and people of Maine will inspire elected officials and citizen leaders in other states to follow this example.”

David Rosenbloom, Director of Join Together, remarked, “Maine is providing national leadership to identify and reduce the huge financial and human burden of untreated addiction. Join Together congratulates the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission for its creative use of our Blueprint for the States recommendations as the basis for its Maine Report Card. Maine and other State governments now spend more than 13% of their annual budgets cleaning up the mess caused by Alcohol, drug and tobacco addiction and misuse. Many of these costs are hidden from view in Medicaid, criminal justice, and social welfare budgets that do not show the true cause of the expenses. The Maine Report Card brings these costs into the open so the Governor, Legislature and the public can address them in a comprehensive way.”

Maine’s report card (PDF) has four categories: Leadership/Structure and Sustainability; Resources; Legislative Initiatives and; Measurement and Accountability. Maine received a C in all categories with the exception of Measurement and Accountability where it earned a B. 

Some recommendations for improving the grade include:

  • Increase alcohol tax and use a percentage of the funds for treatment and prevention.
  • When drafting legislation consider the unintended consequences such as youth access to alcohol and more availability to alcohol.
  • Ensure that substance abuse is seen as a public health issue and that all agencies and organizations that are impacted, such as the Departments of Correction, Education and Public Safety, are engaged in a statewide strategy to address the challenges.
  • Increase access to treatment through insurance coverage and assess all levels of care.

The Chair of the Commission who issued the report, Bob Long remarked, “We are hopeful that this Report Card will be a useful tool in which we can work with key leaders and agencies to improve our grade and ensure that Maine moves to a comprehensive system that includes prevention, treatment and recovery services around substance abuse. The costs associated with not moving forward would be devastating to our families and to our state budget.”

Guy Cousins, Director of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse added, “The Maine Office of Substance Abuse welcomes the opportunity to examine all aspects of our work to accomplish our mission of reducing the overall impact of substance use, abuse, and dependency. As a result of our work with our many national, state and local partners, we are constantly looking at how to improve the work that we do and the services we purchase. ”

The total estimated cost of providing treatment in Maine in 2005, based on reported annual revenue, was $25.2 million.¹ Ruth Blauer, Executive Director, the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, notes that “While access to addictions treatment has increased, Maine’s challenges continue. There are gaps in services based on geography, appropriate level of care, limited adolescent and medication assisted services. The adoption of the Report Card is an important step in building government, legislative and community awareness that Maine’s system for addressing substance abuse and addictions prevention, treatment and recovery services is in need of improvement, and that improvement will yield statewide benefits for individuals, families, and communities.”

Deb Dettor, who directs the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery, said, “Nationally, the movement to create Recovery Oriented Systems of Care is creating a new kind of service system for people who struggle with alcohol & drug related problems. Great successes are being seen in CT and other states that show that many more individuals begin recovery and are able to sustain their recovery through community-based peer support. This report card reflects the efforts underway to create these support services in Maine.”

¹ Maine Office of Substance Abuse Cost Study Report.

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