We want your ideas for how to address Maine’s opiate epidemic.
The Bangor Daily News is hosting the One Life Project at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 4, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. There, people will answer questions to come up with specific steps to ease the opiate epidemic.
Sen. Angus King will speak. The Bangor area Community Health Leadership Board will review and potentially pursue some of the ideas that come out of the evening.
We want as much input as possible, so we’re starting to gather ideas now. Below is one of several questions. (Find the rest here.) Send us your answers, big and small.
We expect to run out of room, so please register soon:
About two-thirds of men and women in local jails nationally are estimated to be using or dependent on drugs or alcohol. Yet few state and federal prisoners who need treatment receive it, putting them at higher risk of reoffending once they’re released.
Once people are involved in the criminal justice system, their conditions tend to deteriorate, making it harder for them to comply with the requirements of incarceration and probation.
Some jails offer interventions for inmates with substance use disorders. And drug courts in parts of Maine aim to offer treatment and monitoring instead of incarceration. But options are limited statewide.
When offenders are required to attend treatment — usually counseling — as part of their probation requirements after their release, the decision about care is often not based on a clinical assessment. Rather attorneys, judges and probation officers tend to make decisions based on plea-bargain agreements or whether the charge is drug related.
In addition, probation conditions often prohibit people from using drugs again, even though relapse is common, just as it is with other chronic illnesses. If someone breaks the condition by using, they risk being charged again and put back in jail — making it harder to get well.
To complicate matters, the treatment people need may not be available. Or some people may not be ready to stop using or might believe they don’t need treatment. Or they may have been convicted on a drug charge but don’t have a substance use disorder.
So, what should we do about all this?