There are bad ideas and there are really bad ideas. Maine’s budget-cutting task force was presented with a really bad idea last week and should reject it out of hand.

The idea, served up by officials of the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, is to cut back on treatment for opiate addicts at a time when such addiction is at epidemic levels in Maine and across the United States.

As documented in MaineToday Media’s recent six-part series “Painkillers in Maine: A Cure With a Curse” and discussed in-depth at a prescription drug abuse “summit” convened by the state attorney general, the problem is serious enough to warrant a statewide task force to address it.

Attorney General William Schneider announced the task force at the end of last week’s daylong summit – a meeting at which Gov. Paul LePage pledged his support for an all-out effort to deal with the problem, including treatment.

“Those who have addictions, we need to treat them,” the governor said.

And if all that weren’t enough, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new report detailing the rampant problem of prescription drug overdoses. Overdose deaths from “opioid pain relievers,” the CDC revealed, have increased at an alarming rate and “now exceed deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined.”

So why would MaineCare officials devise a plan that would place a two-year limit on addicts’ treatment with a substitute drug that helps them resist the urge for opiates while receiving counseling and therapy to overcome their addiction?

The short answer: $787,313.

That’s how much the limit would save the state in its 2013 budget, officials told the Streamline and Prioritize Core Government Services Task Force, which is searching for $25 million in spending reductions to help balance the state budget.

We’ll concede that $787,313 is a lot of money. And we’ll concede that finding ways to cut a budget that’s been cut repeatedly in recent years is a difficult chore. Every element of state government provides important services that might have to be reduced; every interest group has favorite programs that seem essential to those who benefit from them.

Any and all reductions contemplated by the budget task force will be disputed, debated and protested.

But there is no disputing the magnitude of the painkiller epidemic and there is no debate about its potential costs, for individuals, for families, for government, for society as a whole.

Recovery from addiction is a long-term project, lifelong in fact, and arbitrarily cutting off needed medication after two years would be a self-defeating exercise that could end up costing much more than the short-term budget savings.

The budget task force should tell the MaineCare officials who proposed this idea thanks but no thanks and send them back to the drawing board.