Augusta – Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee listened to public testimony on a bill to address the current drug crisis in Maine. The bill in its current form would add funding for 10 additional Maine Drug Enforcement Agents and also contains a hastily put together “plan” to address the treatment side of this issue.
During the hearing, Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris once again told legislators the funding for the MDEA agents had been found within existing resources, leaving only the treatment side of the equation to be addressed.
House Republicans have been consistent in calling for adequate time for consideration for this comprehensive bill. There simply is no reason to rush.
Keep in mind:
• Maine spends nearly $80 million annually on substance abuse treatment. Where is that money being spent? Can some of that money be redirected to better target the problem at hand?
• Substance abuse experts in Maine have said this bill and what it proposed misses the mark completely. How can it be improved to bring forward a targeted approach that gets to the heart of the problem?
These are just a few of the unanswered questions that need to be answered before we move forward with a plan to address this crisis. The current track for this bill has initial committee votes scheduled to be taken by the end of this week. That is not nearly enough time to properly examine all the pieces and come with the best possible solution.
“At the end of the day, it is important to develop a consensus in the Legislature as to how best to deal with this issue – we simply can’t do that without adequate time,” said House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette.