BANGOR, Maine — More than half of new funding to treat poor, uninsured Mainers addicted to drugs is heading to Bangor, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
DHHS announced Tuesday that $2.4 million in medication-assisted treatment program funds would provide resources to treat 359 patients, covering the costs for 50 patients at Acadia Hospital and 160 at Discovery House, both located in Bangor.
With methadone-assisted treatment, one of two people is successful in beating their drug addiction, according to Brent Miller, program director for the Discovery House, one of the local clinics to benefit from funding.
“Methadone … is far and away the best solution, the data shows,” Miller said Tuesday.
The new funding does not increase the number of patients currently allowed at each clinic, Miller said, adding that the funds help pay for drug rehabilitation services for the working poor who cannot afford them.
“We’re creating the criteria now,” he said, referring to who would qualify for the new slots at the clinic, which opened in 2007 in a location off Odlin Road. “One criteria is income. The person has to be at or below the poverty level of income, and also they [have to be] employed, but don’t have insurance.”
The Acadia Hospital funding will be used to start a daily Suboxone treatment pilot program, similar to the methadone treatment program, for uninsured Mainers, Dan Coffey, president and CEO of Acadia Hospital, said Tuesday.
Suboxone is prescribed by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency-certified doctors but typically does not include the same level of support services that are required by law for methadone patients, Coffey said.
“This will provide a well-structured program” for Suboxone patients, he said, that will be designed so “we can transition their care home to a local health care provider” after the person is stabilized in their recovery.
The DHHS funding also covers funding to pay for 100 patients at the Discovery House in Calais, 24 spots at Central Maine Counseling in Lewiston and 25 at Crooked River Counseling in Bridgton.
“It’s a lifelong disease,” Miller said of drug addiction. “If you don’t get treatment, the situation gets worse and it’s a lot more costly.”
The Acadia Hospital opened Bangor’s first methadone clinic inside its Stillwater Avenue facility 15 years ago and served roughly 110 clients. Now Acadia has a 700-patient capacity.
The Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center opened on Hogan Road four years later and recently sued for the repeal of a Bangor ordinance being used to prevent the clinic’s expansion. As part of a settlement of that lawsuit, Bangor councilors voted last week to allow the clinic, which had 209 prospective patients on its waiting list, to expand from 300 to 500 clients.
“So far we’ve been able to admit 15 additional patients,” John Doyle, Penobscot County Metro’s attorney, said Tuesday.
Each client needs to be screened and given a physical to enroll, so about a dozen clients can be processed weekly, he said.
The Discovery House clinic opened in 2007 and in 2010 was allowed to expand from 500 clients to serve up to 700.
Maine has watched the problem of drug addiction grow over the years. Only 60 people died in drug-related deaths in Maine in 2000, and by 2015 a record 272 people died in drug overdose deaths.
“I think people are starting to understand that opiate addiction treatment is really essential to solving the problem and getting a handle on the disease,” Miller said, adding that education and enforcement also have their roles.
In addition to Tuesday’s announcement, state leaders determined in the fall that a detox center is needed somewhere in the Bangor area and in October awarded Wellspring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, a residential and outpatient services program in Bangor, a DHHS grant for $1.16 million to create a 10-bed “residential social setting detoxification center.”
The two-year contract began in November and runs through July 2018, with the rules requiring that 40 percent of the detox center’s patients be uninsured to ensure finances are not a barrier to treatment.
The social detox model brings together a small group of people starting a path to recovery from drug or alcohol abuse to a residential facility for a short period, usually three days to a week. Whether the detox center, which will cater to both alcohol and drug abusers, will provide methadone or Suboxone to treat opiate addiction has not been determined.
DHHS also announced Tuesday that it is working with the Penobscot County Jail and Penobscot Community Health Care to start a pilot program in the next couple of months to provide Vivitro, a monthly shot treatment for women in the jail who are addicted to prescription painkillers.
In addition, the agency indicated that funding and a contract have been completed to create a women’s residential treatment facility with 10 beds apiece for women and their children in the Bangor area. Details about where the women’s facility will be located have not been determined.
“We’re trying to create a continuum of care, so no matter where the person is [along their path of recovery], there is no barrier to getting treatment and getting services,” Miller said. “This offers human beings a chance to get their lives back.”