The chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday recommended in her annual address to lawmakers the creation of a “full wrap-around drug court” as an alternative to traditional drug courts.

Leigh I. Saufley said Gov. Paul LePage has given his blessing to a proposed pilot project that would include immediate and extensive access to addiction treatment, mental health treatment, sober housing, job training, transportation, family-related services and long-term followup.

Her announcement of the project drew a standing ovation from lawmakers.

“If we are able to fund this project, it must include thorough evaluations and rigorous application of nationally recognized best practices,” Saufley told a joint session of the House and Senate. “Fairly quickly, we will learn whether a more comprehensive approach to addiction recovery yields better outcomes. It will not be inexpensive, but the long-term consequences of failing to find an answer to this crisis are beyond measuring.”

Saufley did not provide a cost estimate for the project.

The judiciary has been fully funded for most of the LePage administration. When Democrat John Baldacci was governor, Saufley often spoke in her annual addresses about the difficulty the courts faced in delivering justice when the system was understaffed because of funding shortfalls.

Saufley graduated from the University of Maine and the University of Maine Law School. She worked for a decade in the Maine attorney general’s office before being appointed a district court judge by Gov. John McKernan in 1990. Three years later, the Republican governor appointed her to the Superior Court bench.

Gov. Angus King, an independent, elevated her to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 1997. She was sworn in as Maine’s first female chief justice in 2001. In 2016, Gov. Paul LePage reappointed Saufley to the position.

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