November 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is awarding the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Penquis Community Action Agency a total of $2,302,864 to combat the opioid crisis and confront substance abuse disorders in Maine youth. This life-saving funding comes as the state sees a spike in overdose fatalities due to challenges created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“For years, the opioid epidemic has devastated our communities and robbed families across our state of loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this heartbreak by increasing isolation and creating barriers to traditional support networks, contributing to a record overdose death toll of more than 500 Mainers in 2020,” said Senators Collins and King. “These important Department of Justice funds will give Maine’s government and community partners additional resources to confront substance abuse disorders and enhance treatment efforts for our most vulnerable youth. We’re grateful for all the work the Maine DHHS and Penquis have done to combat the devastating impact of opioids, and we will continue to work alongside them to save lives.”
“The opioid epidemic has impacted public health and safety, devastated families, and deeply affected our children and youth. The isolation and disruption in services and supports resulting from the pandemic have exacerbated the already significant challenges we face here in Maine,” said Kara Hay, Penquis CEO. “This funding will provide crucial programming for affected youth, supporting the efforts of Penquis and fifteen community partners representing health, law enforcement, local government, social service, and victim service agencies. Together, we will deliver trauma-informed and trauma-responsive services, including community resource navigation for children, youth, and adults; engage youth through activity groups and evidence-based programming to increase prosocial skills and resilience; and develop comprehensive community approaches to supporting youth health, safety, and wellbeing.”
The funding will be allocated as follows:
· The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is receiving $1,600,000 from the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for the Maine Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Enhancement Project to improve understanding of interrelated factors or determinants that contribute to the risk of prescription misuse, addiction and overdoses. The project will couple prescription data with other data to analyze the relationships of interventions, including prescription patterns, to enhance the prevention and treatment process in Maine.
· The Penquis Community Action Agency in Bangor is receiving $702,864 from the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance for their Opioid Affected Youth Initiative to prevent the early use of addictive substances by children, youth, and young adults. The program will work to support healthy early childhood development; reduce adverse childhood experiences; promote life skills and resilience-building for all youth; identify and support youth and young adults at risk of developing a substance use disorder; support and expand community partnerships to educate and engage youth, families, and communities; and implement and sustain COVID response, recovery and resiliency strategies.
Senators Collins and King have both been committed to combatting the opioid epidemic during and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic separated Americans from their loved ones and made it more difficult to access traditional support systems, the Senators have worked to improve resources and increase awareness of the crisis. Last December, in the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package, they secured $4.25 billion to support services for mental health and substance use disorders. Earlier this year, they announced $2.5 million to combat the opioid epidemic in Aroostook County and $6.28 million to support Maine disaster-relief jobs in areas affected by the crisis. Senator King also introduced a bipartisan resolution to officially recognize September as “National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month,” and earlier that month announced that the state would receive nearly $1 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support substance use treatment.