In an effort to help move heroin addiction treatment to a new and more effective kind of medication, Governor Paul LePage is proposing to eliminate state-funded methadone regimens in the state of Maine. Suboxone has recently been praised by those working in the field of addiction treatment as being safer and more effective for treating opiate addicts.
Because of issues with methadone addiction and overdose, the governor of Maine is hoping to switch entirely to suboxone for any treatment programs that are funded by the state government. The move has been criticized by democrats as being too drastic and is said to show the governor's emphasis on law enforcement over addiction treatment.
Although the cuts in funding are part of the goal of transitioning to different treatment methods, many worry that the broad elimination of methadone will harm people benefiting from treatment programs now.
Reducing Methadone Programs in Maine
Governor LePage's proposal includes a cut of $727,000 in state funds for methadone programs in fiscal year 2016 and $868,000 in fiscal year 2017. This dramatic decrease in financial assistance for these opiate treatment programs will mean that they no longer receive annual matching funds of $1.2 million.
Democrats are concerned that this drastic cut will be too sudden and negatively affect the individuals who are involved in the current programs. Instead of a gradual lessening of the program, many people will be cut off and lose the stability that they had as a result of using methadone as a substitution therapy for their addiction.
The Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew asserts that the cut in funding is necessary to transition patients into suboxone treatment which is the better alternative. Mayhew states that methadone cannot be reported to the state's prescription monitoring program, making it easier for patients to abuse this medication without their doctor's knowledge. The transition to suboxone from methadone treatment will not only be safer and less addictive for patients but it will also help to lower costs and provide better outcomes for the entire system.
Critics of LePage's stance on drug treatment say that his effort to cut funding for methadone treatment is a part of his program to focus more on law enforcement to fight drug abuse. While cutting financial assistance for drug treatment, the governor of Maine is also proposing millions of dollars in new spending on drug agents and prosecutors at state and county levels.
People are worried that effective treatment for drug addiction will be diminished while arrests and imprisonment for drug possession will increase. The issue is especially sensitive in Maine which has long had one of the worst opiate addiction rates in the country.
In the last few years about 4,760 residents of the state were receiving methadone treatment and 65 percent of those were Medicaid patients benefitting from state-funded programs. Reducing and handling drug addiction has become more of a priority for officials in Maine and the governor has state that this year they will focus on fighting addiction as much as possible.
While many residents of Maine might be benefitting from methadone treatment now, there are problems with this medication that the state wishes to address by transitioning to suboxone. Methadone can become addictive for patients and it is easier for them to abuse the medication because it is not provided under a doctor's care.
Suboxone treatment is carried out directly under a physician's care making it much safer and easier to use as treatment for patients with severe opiate addictions. While the proposal and the state budget will still be negotiated, the governor remains firm in his goal of switching to the alternative medication for drug addiction.