Congratulations to MaineToday Media on your coverage of potentially addictive prescription medications (pain relievers, tranquilizers, sleep aids, and stimulants). Misuse and overuse of these medications pose serious and growing problems in Maine.

I’m an adviser to the Maine Prescription Monitoring Program and a national center to support state PMPs, and have used the Maine PMP data in my research. Based on this, I see many positives in Maine that balance the challenges your articles point out.

We are doing a lot with a little, and doing it together: The key players in health care and law enforcement share ideas and collaborate on new initiatives. Medical and pharmacy training programs introduce young professionals to the use of the PMP and the importance of substance abuse treatment. Innovative outreach programs educate physicians about the most effective treatments for pain.

Addressing the unnecessary and illegal use of these medications requires action on many fronts. Health care professionals need continuing education on pain management and substance abuse. Targeted regulations and law enforcement guidelines are needed to identify the minority of patients, prescribers and pharmacists who may be obtaining or giving out the medications illegally. For the PMP to be even more widely used and influential, it will need larger and more stable funding than the federal grants that have supported it up to now.

The public needs to be more aware of this problem. Your articles are an important step in raising public awareness of this problem and of how to solve it.

Susan Payne

Cape Elizabeth

Compassion, love virtues we all should strive for

I’d like to applaud The Portland Press Herald for publishing Mark R. Swann’s Maine Voices column (“Myths serve as tool to scapegoat homeless, poor,” Nov. 7).

As a lifelong Portlander, I am sick of the negativity directed toward those less fortunate in this great city. Swann’s piece was poignant and moving. Homelessness and poverty have become national trends, mirroring the recession and the failures of American government. People do not consciously choose a life of hardship.

The world needs more people like Mr. Swann. I say that not just because he volunteers, but also because compassion and love are virtues we all should strive for. Keep up the good work, Mr. Swann. You and your staff are heroes among us.

Chris Shorr

Portland

Jetport visitors can enjoy steel animal sculptures

As co-chair of the Portland Public Art Committee, I would like to express the committee’s gratitude for the generous gift of steel animal sculptures newly installed along the road to the airport. With the exception of the Stone Dragon at the East End School, they are the first animals in Portland’s public art collection.

The installation marks the successful collaboration between the Portland Public Art Committee, the donor, a professional curator and the artist herself.

As with all the works in the public art collection, these sculptures are considered a capital asset of the city. The Public Art Committee must ensure that they receive yearly maintenance and are kept in good repair for at least 25 years.

That should give everyone who uses the airport, including visitors to Maine, many years to enjoy these handsome creatures.

Alice Spencer

Portland

Take the time to evaluate potential boom industry

I read with interest the article about a new rail line to transport wood pellets from West Baldwin to Portland, for shipping to Europe (“With pellet plant in mind, Maine seeks rail grant,” Nov. 8). While there’s a lot to get excited about — reinvigorating rail service, new jobs and Maine-grown resources — now is the time to evaluate, and yes, regulate, what could become a boom industry.

The West Baldwin plant intends to export 300,000 tons of pellets a year overseas. How will Maine’s forests be impacted, not just by this plant, but if success spurs a half dozen similar plants? What are the ecological limits to the pellet industry’s growth?

Also, does shipping the pellets overseas negate the renewable advantages of wood pellets as a fuel source? According to www.carbonfund.org, a diesel container ship contributes .10 lbs. of CO2 per ton, per mile. It’s up to the people who hope to turn a profit to demonstrate a business model that is good for Maine, and at the very least doesn’t worsen climate change.

Matt Power

Portland

Cigarette butt litterers need to clean up their act

In an earlier letter, a 9-year-old girl, Cati Gaffen of Casco, related how she picked up roadside litter and was encouraging readers to do so also (“Help pick up 100 pieces of litter,” Nov. 6).

That impressed me greatly, and I commend not only Cati, but her parents, for bringing her up in such a way that she would make this contribution to society for her Girl Scout badge.

I also live in Casco and have picked up the litter during my daily walks along a mile stretch of the road I’ve lived on for 11 years. Mostly it’s fast food litter, highest in volume, and cigarette butts, highest in quantity.

There are alternatives to throwing butts out the window, but it isn’t unusual to find 20 to 30 butts over my mile every single day. Yes, smokers, butts are litter.

Anyway, keep up the good work, Cati. It would be great if we were “put out of business,” so to speak, by litterers cleaning up their act.

Erik Bartlett

Casco

Cross country spectators should get out of the way

Would you run across a football field in the middle of a game or walk across a soccer or field hockey field while players attempted a goal? Clearly the answer to that question is “no.” So why do spectators, non-competing athletes and school representatives feel comfortable walking or running on a track or cross country course during a race?

I attended the Class B State meet at Twin Brooks and was horrified to watch as runners had to routinely avoid people crossing their path during races. More than once I yelled “Track!” so peole would get out of the way of runners.

Please consider this the next time you attend a race and just can’t wait to get to the other side of that trail. These atheletes deserve the same respect for their sport that all athletes do — regardless of where they compete.

Kathleen Cassidy

Winslow