During her inauguration speech Wednesday night, Governor Janet Mills promised swift action in tackling the opioid epidemic, including a Director of Opioid Response.
"In sad memory of the 418 Maine people who lost their lives to drug overdose in 2017, our Administration will create a Director of Opiate Response, a person who will marshal the collective power and resources of state government to stem the tide of this epidemic,” said Gov. Mills during her inaugural address Wednesday night.
Thursday, Mills gave more detail about the position.
Gov. Mills alluded to the position throughout her campaign. She reached out to recovery groups, including Operation HOPE in Scarborough before she took office to ask for input.
On social media, the position drew mixed support.
Kalie-Jo Begin tweeted: ‘As someone who lost a sister to an overdose in February, I thank you for your empathy and attention to this epidemic.’
Linda wrote: ‘Adding robust mental health access could help sustain progress. As you probably know there is a shortage of providers so chaning reimbursement rules to pay for different licensure levels would help.’
Dave tweeted: ‘What specifically is the 'common sense approach'?
Creating another government office only spends more taxpayer money on a problem that ultimately can only be fixed by those who WANT to clean up their lives.’
On the front lines of recovery support are people such as Justin Reid, a recovery coach with Operation HOPE. He helps place people into detox or treatment.
"Early on in recovery, somebody may not know where to turn,” said Reid, who struggled with his own addiction to heroin. “When they hear that I've also been there, you can see a little bit of hope in their eyes because they say, it seems like you're doing okay today. It opens their ears and minds to, 'alright, maybe I can do this.'"
Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton believes this new position could make an impact on society, not just the state's budget.
"I think you would find that it's a lot cheaper to help these people through this issue and break them out of the cycle and not having them continuing to go in the rescue, continuing to go in the hospital, continuing to steal, continuing to go in the court system, continuing to go to jail,” said Chief Moulton. "I'm hoping that whoever she appoints to this position will listen to the people in recovery."