Topic: Advocacy Programs

Opioid crisis response needs to help the most vulnerable

Dr. Ann Marie Lemire, medical director of the Cumberland County Jail, could have given lawmakers a raft of statistics. Instead, she told them a story.

About five weeks ago, a man near the end of his sentence was desperately afraid of what his release would mean. He was homeless and was worried that once he was back on the street, he would resume using opioids. He connected with Portland Public Health and made an appointment to speak with a community educator after he got out. But before that meeting could occur, he overdosed and died, less than 24 hours after his release.

It’s a tragic story, but not that unusual. Maine was unprepared for the opioid overdose epidemic, which has taken lives of people from every economic stratum. But as the state steps up its response to the crisis, special attention needs to be paid to the most vulnerable – people who are homeless and can’t access treatment as easily as someone with a more stable life. A bill to address that special circumstance, L.D. 1337, is before the Legislature and should be passed.

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Mills set to reject LePage’s last-minute attempt to cut Medicaid

In the wake of her formal inauguration, during which Governor Janet Mills said she will implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion, advocacy groups are hopeful that Maine’s newly elected Democratic governor will quickly sideline the potential for work requirements to be placed on the state’s Medicaid recipients, an option granted by the federal government on Dec. 21 to former Governor Paul LePage in his final days in office.

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Farm Bill maintains SNAP, contains provisions for maple, honey, and organics

Preble Street and other poverty relief organizations in Maine are relieved that the 2018 US Farm Bill has passed with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, intact.

The $867-billion dollar omnibus bill passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers, but not before a tense year of negotiations, including a House version of the bill that would have cut SNAP and imposed work requirements, potentially reducing or ending food benefits for some 2-million recipients.

“We absolutely needed this legislation to come through,” says Director of Advocacy for Preble Street, Heather Zimmerman. Zimmerman says their nonprofit organization served about 600-thousand meals to hungry Mainers last year. “Quite simply we are already stretched to capacity. We cannot fill the gap if government programs are eroded.”

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Group of veterans leave letters asking that Congressman Poliquin not support the Farm Bill

A group of veterans gathered outside of Congressman Bruce Poliquin’s office Wednesday morning urging him not to support the Farm Bill.

They say this bill that includes legislation from the Congressman’s Food Stamp Integrity Act, proposes significant cuts and harsher time limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called SNAP.

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Maine faith leaders host drug overdose death vigil at State House

Faith leaders gathered in Augusta on Wednesday to host a vigil for the hundreds of people in Maine lost last year to drug overdoses.

They’re calling on lawmakers to fully fund a number of bills aimed at addressing the opioid crisis in the state.

“418 people died last year from overdoses – that’s more than one a day,” said Rev. Jane Field, Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches.

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Maine groups team up to combat child hunger

With Maine listed as having the third-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, Maine Medical Center’s pediatrics unit is teaming up with the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative to help reduce that number.

The Hunger Vital Sign program connects patients with food options that they may not have otherwise, the hospital said.

“It’s really about empowering people to know that we know you love your children, you care for them and you want to provide for them,” said Michelle Lamm, with Preble Street. “We care about your children too, and we want to help you provide for them.”

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Our View: Addiction, homelessness must be fought together

Whether a person is homeless as a result of a spiraling drug problem, or abusing drugs to cope with life on the street, homelessness and addiction are inexorably linked. Feeding off each other, and on what is perhaps the most vulnerable population, they cause a tremendous amount of suffering, and fuel a public health crisis that is hidden until it isn’t, and spills over into the wider world.

Because homelessness and addiction are often so firmly linked, they must be addressed together, with a combination of services that stabilize and treat a person, then prepare them for the next step in what with any luck will be a productive life. 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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