When asked about how they would deal with the opioid crisis, I was very disappointed with the answers given by the mayoral candidates at the debate held at the University of New England on Tuesday.

A 29-year-old woman regains consciousness after Portland paramedics administer Narcan to combat the effects of a heroin overdose in 2015. Overdose deaths set a record for the third straight year in Maine in 2022, claiming an estimated 716 people. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, File

The state is due to receive as much as $130 million from the opioid settlement. The next mayor of Portland needs to lobby the governor, the attorney general and the Recovery Council to provide 100 recovery beds for Portland. And, although I supported the large shelter built on Riverside Street, I think we should build smaller recovery centers. Maybe one that will admit unhoused couples. Maybe one that will admit unhoused patients with pets. Maybe we need a recovery center that accepts unhoused patients with children.

We need beds and we need staff. Use the opioid settlement money to provide free education for any person willing to take a degree in substance abuse counseling.

Yes, it will take years to tackle this problem, but let’s at least acknowledge that our encampments and the related crime therein are largely caused by addiction. I want a candidate who will treat this like a four-alarm fire.

Nobody wants to be an opioid addict. When an addict in our community reaches the point when they are willing to ask for help, we need a bed for that person. And if there is no bed for that person at that time, I consider that a profound failure on the part of our community.

John Schaberg

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