In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in Stamford, Connecticut. Credit: Mark Lennihan / AP

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Soon, Maine will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make bold investments into programs and services to help people who use drugs stay alive and heal. Where is this money coming from? It’s coming from drug companies and other corporations settling lawsuits over their role in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. This money provides us with an opportunity to invest in public health solutions to the overdose crisis that is costing lives in our communities.

For too long, we’ve focused on punishing people for using drugs. What we know is that this punitive approach is not working. Instead, it creates barriers to wellness. Now, we will have the money to fund evidenced-based programs that we know lead to healing, instead of doubling down on failed criminal justice responses.

The Legislature is considering a bill to create a system to administer these opioid funds. The bill, LD 1722, creates an advisory commission to direct how the funds should be spent. Most importantly, it includes people from the harm reduction, recovery and treatment communities.

We must listen to these voices if we want to use the funds wisely and support healing. I hope the Legislature will support wellness and vote for LD 1722.

Chasity Tuell

Washington County program director

Maine Access Points

Marshfield