Those in need speak

Letters to the Portland Editor, March 18, 2011
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  March 16, 2011

EDITOR'S NOTE Residential substance-abuse treatment centers in Maine may be forced to close their doors as a result of severe cuts proposed in Governor Paul LePage's budget. The Maine Office of Substance Abuse faces about $6 million in cuts, mostly to residential programs, but also to drug courts and other services (see Anthony Carter's letter below). Residents (and one employee) of Portland's Serenity House, which provides transitional housing, job-search assistance, and treatment to about 150 men a year, sent letters to local media outlets to plead their case. We selected (and slightly edited) some excerpts here.

ANTHONY CARTER I am a 23-year-old addict, who's been fighting this since I was 10 years old, currently residing at the Serenity House . . . I was recently housed at the York County Correctional Facility in Alfred . . . [A] great number of inmates are incarcerated as a direct result of substance abuse. Without treatment, appropriate treatment, addicts and alcoholics will become repeat offenders . . .

The Office of Substance Abuse (OSA) is looking to cut roughly 4.4 million dollars from the substance abuse treatment budget . . . the Fund for Healthy Maine (FHM) is looking to cut roughly 1.4 million dollars . . . totalling a nearly 6 million dollar cut in the state of Maine for help with substance abuse. In result of this absurd cut, emergency shelters, rehabilitation facilities, transitional living programs, detoxification centers . . . will be eliminated!

FHM reductions will eliminate drug courts [special court dockets that focus on families with substance-abuse issues] entirely statewide . . . If the 140 clients participating in drug courts in 2010 were mandated to jail rather than to drug court and addiction treatment centers, the cost to the state of Maine would have been $8,432,010. Further, the 2800 Mainers diverted from incarceration would have cost the state of Maine $124,039,305 if sent to jail for a year. In comparison to the $6,000,000 they're looking to cut, where's the logic?

ELIZABETH HOLDER, LICENSED ALCOHOL AND DRUG COUNSELOR AT SERENITY HOUSE Serenity House has been in business for over 42 years. We have 33 beds . . . 33 lives at a time in our hands. We do our best to get by with the help of GA and OSA, both of which are scheduled for drastic cuts. These cuts will devastate our program and threaten to remove the hope we try to instill in men struggling with substance abuse and their families . . . It will be far-reaching — affecting our community, our state, even our country, as does a sober man's message of hope and gratitude.

FRANK LOPES I am a 44-year-old male that has made some very bad choices in his life! I suffer from alcohol abuse and have had this affliction for some years on and off. In 2005 I started a prison sentence . . . upon release I was sent to Portland to reside at the Serenity House in order to create a new life and a relapse-prevention plan to accompany me in my recovery and also to help me find my way back to being a productive member of society . . . We know we cannot do it alone . . . Please!! Do not leave the afflicted people alone with no help! No hope! No love!

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