Maine Gov. Janet Mills marked International Overdose Awareness Day on Tuesday by announcing that her administration will increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for residential substance use disorder treatment.

Beginning Nov. 1, the reimbursement rate for detoxification providers will increase by 77 percent, from $217 per person per day to $385, and the rate for halfway house services will jump 56 percent, from $106 per person per day to $165.

Additionally, the rate for other residential rehab services will increase between 28 and 39 percent, depending on the classification.

The rate increases will cost a total of $2.1 million, which was included in the governor’s biennial budget signed into law in July.

“Our state is diminished every time we lose a person to a drug overdose, and my heart breaks for their friends, family, and community members,” Mills said in a statement. “I want every person in Maine to have the opportunity to live a happy and healthy life and to contribute to the success of our state. With drug overdose deaths reaching record levels as a result of the pandemic and the increased prevalence of fentanyl, our administration is doing whatever we can to prevent drug use, support recovery, and save lives.”

Last year, Maine set a new record with 502 drug overdose deaths, many of them attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The numbers so far this year suggest that record is likely to be eclipsed. For the first six months of 2021, there were 304 confirmed or suspected overdose deaths, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The rate increases were the result of a comprehensive review of Medicaid reimbursements rates in Maine that took up much of last year. Many health care providers, including those in substance use disorder treatment, have long said the rates were too low to pay employees competitive wages. Some providers even cited the low rates in their decision to close facilities.

More than 300,000 Maine residents are covered under Medicaid and thousands of them seek various treatments for substance use disorders every year.

Malory Shaughnessy, executive director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, said members are “thrilled” with the increased rates.

“We have urged rate increases for several years. We should see increased access to these services in the coming year as the rates will begin to fully cover the cost of providing the services,” she said. “More providers will be able to come into the system of care and those currently providing these services will be able to expand.

“For the last few years, the demand has far outstripped access and many people have languished on waitlists trying to get help – and many have overdosed or ended up in emergency rooms.”

Shaughnessy said members also urged the state to expand its focus on treatment for stimulants, which are increasing showing up in overdose deaths, often combined with fentanyl.

In addition to the reimbursement rate increases, Mills announced Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a $300,000 grant to the nonprofit Healthy Acadia to continue providing treatment for substance use disorder in 20 locations across the state, including five county jails.

“Saving lives from drug overdoses includes ensuring that those struggling with substance use disorder can get high-quality treatment and help when they need it,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. “Increasing reimbursement rates for this critical service and supporting recovery coaches who guide Maine people on the path to recovery bring us that much closer to changing the course of the opioid epidemic. On this Overdose Awareness Day, we honor those we have lost, recognize those who survived, and remind all Maine people that help is always available.”

Aug. 31 has been designated as International Overdose Awareness Day, a time for family members and advocates to draw attention to those who have died from drug overdose and to help reduce the stigma of substance use disorder. The ongoing pandemic and associated isolation and uncertainty led to an especially deadly year in 2020, when more than 93,000 individuals in the U.S. alone lost their lives.


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