Gov. Janet Mills announced plans Friday to create 140 new residential treatment beds at seven locations across the state for people with substance use disorder.

It’s the latest effort to combat an ongoing opioid crisis that has claimed more than 2,500 lives in Maine over the last five years, including a record 716 overdose deaths last year. An overwhelming majority are linked to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The $6 million allocation increases the number of treatment beds in Maine by 36%, from 387 to 527. Half of the new beds are either available already or will be within a few weeks, and the rest are set to open by the end of the year.

“Maine is within the crushing grip of the opioid epidemic, worsened by the effects of the pandemic and the increased presence of highly lethal fentanyl. It’s killing a record number of Maine people – people who are our families, friends, and neighbors,” Mills said in a statement. “This funding through my Administration will significantly expand the availability of treatment beds across Maine so that we can save lives, put more people on the road to recovery, and, in time, turn the tide on this deadly epidemic.”

The announcement comes just one day after advocates within the recovery community lobbied lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow nonprofits to open safe injection sites in Maine, with community approval. Although controversial, safe injection sites are seen as a way to dramatically reduce the number of overdose deaths. That bill has some support, but its passage is uncertain.

Courtney Gary-Allen, organizing director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said the state needs to shift its thinking when it comes to tackling the opioid crisis. Treatment is good, but harm reduction is critical, too.


“The State of Maine already encourages supervised consumption through their OPTIONS program, ‘Don’t use alone’ PR campaigns, fentanyl test strips and naloxone distribution,” she said Thursday. “The only difference between that and a harm reduction health center is four walls, a roof, and a doctor.”

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland also has sponsored a bill that would create an additional 20 detox beds. That has passed through committee but still requires additional votes in the Legislature.

As governor Mills has substantially increased funding for treatment and also has expanded access to the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, but overdose deaths continue to increase. The same is true in almost every other state.

According to data tracked by Maine health officials, there were more than 10,000 overdoses reported in 2022, 7% of which resulted in death. The toll would certainly have been greater if not for the increased availability of Narcan. Since 2019, the Mills administration has distributed more than 324,755 doses of Narcan.

The arrival of the pandemic in early 2020 exacerbated the opioid crisis in many states, Maine included, and created greater demand for treatment.

“Having the appropriate treatment available when an individual is ready to seek recovery is essential to improving our opioid response,” said Gordon Smith, Maine’s director of opioid response.


Among the organizations that will receive funding to add beds are: Pine Tree Recovery in Portland (20 beds), Catholic Charities (12 beds in Auburn) and Milestone Recovery in Portland (14 beds).

“The biggest obstacle Maine faces in tackling rising addiction cases is the availability of and access to treatment services,” said Kerry MacDonald, executive director at Pine Tree Recovery Center.

“This grant will be a game changer, allowing us to serve more Maine people along their path to recovery,” added Tom Doherty, Milestone’s executive director.

The largest expansion will be at Soul Sanctuary, which will use the allocation to add 78 treatment beds across five locations in Portland.

“Without the assistance that was offered through the expansion award, we would not have been able to implement the structural changes which allowed us to open our doors and provide treatment, support, and resources to a vulnerable, underserved population struggling with substance use disorders,” Executive Director Sarah Coupe said. “The amount of assistance and support we have received in helping us through this process has been incredible.”

Other projects included in the announcement are: Day One in Windham (six beds), Wabanaki Public Health in Bangor (six beds) and Aroostook Mental Health Services in Presque Isle (four beds).

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