In his March 6 Sunday Telegram commentary, ER physician Mark Fourre describes with great insight Maine’s opioid addiction crisis. He points out that this is a “societal problem,” and that addiction treatment is “beyond the means of the health care community” but accepts that “some of this problem has to be owned by the medical community.”

Indeed, he goes on to say, MaineHealth is trying to come up with “innovative solutions” to the crisis, such as addiction education for 10 doctors in the network, and support of inpatient and outpatient treatment centers around the state. However, as almost half (48 percent) of the addicts Dr. Fourre sees in the ER have no insurance, where is the funding for these efforts to come from?

Over-billing of insured and self-pay patients? Cutting of other MaineHealth programs? Delay of staff raises? Calls for increased philanthropy? Is asking MaineHealth to be a charity, and addicts charity cases (“Charity … is the opium of the privileged” – Chinua Achebe), the best “innovative solution” available?

How about this for an innovative solution? How about if MaineHealth addresses the addiction problem (“Drug overdose deaths surge by ‘shocking’ 31 percent” – lead headline in March 8 Portland Press Herald) not out of charity, not by tinkering with this program or that, not by moving money from this column to that, but by joining the effort to bring universal health care to the state of Maine?

This would be a truly innovative solution in which every citizen would pay his fair share of containing the scourge of addiction (no more overall in a single-payer plan than they pay now, and possibly less); and MaineHealth would get paid appropriately for treating every addict who turns to them for help.