Nearly all members of the Portland community have been (in some way) affected by opiate use and overdose. Opiate addiction has become humanized, and has emerged as a public health issue – not just a problem for the criminal justice system to solve. It is now known that behavioral and medication-assisted treatments, not punishments, are the front-line approaches to addressing this epidemic.

As a master of social work graduate in the substance use field, I have seen treatments work, and I’ve celebrated with overdose survivors as they gained stable employment, relationships and housing and became eager to give back to a state that provided so much during their times of need.

Equally as often, I’m faced with difficult conversations in which those seeking supports are denied because of inadequate insurance coverage and the cost of care. The Affordable Care Act provides those struggling with addiction the best chance to access quality care, and treats those recovering from opiate use with compassion and dignity. So far, it is the best coverage ever offered … and it still isn’t enough.

Any rollback to the ACA will deny treatment to more people. In short, we can anticipate that more young Mainers, unable to access effective treatments to safely manage their opiate use, will die. The opposite holds true, too: If, as a state, we decide to vote for Medicaid expansion in November, it is anticipated that more people battling addiction will have access to lifesaving treatment.

In my case, the personal is professional is political – decisions about health care coverage on the national scale affect the quality (and possibility) of life for the people I treat, and (in my personal life), the people I love.

Ellen Pogson


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