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Bill to regulate addiction recovery homes moves forward in Legislature

Bellows’ bill would have the state adopt standards set by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, a nonprofit affiliation of recovery house programs across about two dozen states and based in Minnesota. The alliance established a national standard ...

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The measure looks to set enforceable standards for residential treatment programs across Maine By Scott ThistleStaff Writer Follow on FacebookFollow on TwitterEmail Writer207-791-6330 Share Read Article AUGUSTA — Top leaders at the State House agreed Thursday to allow consideration next session of a bill that would set standards for residential opioid addiction treatment programs. The bill, sponsored by SenShenna Bellows, D-Manchester, will be taken up when the Legislature convenes in January. State SenShenna Bellows says Maine's lack of standards for recovery residences makes it hard for patients and their families to determine whether a particular one will help their recovery “An Act to Ensure Quality and Increase Access to Recovery Residences,” would establish standards for residential programs, which are currently unregulated other than having to abide by local zoning ordinances. Bellows said the lack of official standards for recovery residences in Maine makes it difficult for patients and families to determine whether a particular residence will aid their recovery. “It takes courage and determination for a person to say goodbye to their former lives and get on the path to recovery,” Bellows said in a prepared statement“When Mainers take the step to enter a recovery residence, they deserve to know they’re getting the safe, healthy, stable environment they signed up forBy setting standards and expanding eligibility, recovery residences can become a key component of our fight against addiction and overdose.” Maine is struggling with an epidemic of opioid addiction that led to 376 drug overdose deaths in 2016, mostly from opioid drugs that include heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillersThe crisis, which reaches every corner of the state, has overwhelmed treatment resources and left public officials scrambling for solutions. About 15,500 people received treatment for opioid addiction in 2015, but public health officials say the demand for treatment services is much higherThat demand has fueled the establishment of recovery houses, often called “sober houses,” especially in the Portland area – but the programs are essentially unregulated. Bellows’ bill would have the state adopt standards set by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, a nonprofit affiliation of recovery house programs across about two dozen states and based in MinnesotaThe alliance established a national standard for recovery houses that helps consumers identify the levels of services offered and compare resources and programs. The legislation also would make people in recovery eligible for the Bridging Rental Assistance ProgramThe federally funded program provides housing subsidies to people with psychiatric conditions who lack the means to afford stable housingThe bill would amend rules to make it easier for people to use these funds to pay the costs for placement in a recovery residence. For a bill to be considered during the second session of the Legislature, which begins Jan3, the Legislative Council must conclude that it addresses an emergency issue, according to the state constitution. “If ever there were an emergency, it is the drug crisis, which is taking a toll on Maine families from all walks of life,” Bellows saidHer bill was endorsed by a special legislative task force set up to find solutions to the opioid crisisThe task force recently completed its work and forwarded a list of suggested bills, including Bellows’, to the full Legislature. “Future generations will hold us accountable for the ability to face the drug crisis head-on and save Maine lives,” Bellows said in thanking the Legislative Council for allowing the bill to move forward“With its decisions today, the council showed it’s serious about taking action.” Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at: [email protected] Twitter: thisdog Share Read or Post Comments Send questions/comments to the editors Want the news vital to Maine? 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