The National Association of Social Workers Maine Chapter (NASW) is pleased that the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price came to Maine today to become more aware of the opioid epidemic in our state and to learn about our mental health care needs. We are currently struggling with a record number of deaths from overdoses this past year.
However, NASW is deeply concerned that the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed on May 4 by the United States House of Representatives clearly fails to protect those individuals in Maine who are already struggling with mental health or substance use issues.
As that Act currently stands, the ability for states to opt out of these services directly undermines the needs of the approximately 25,000 Maine residents currently unable to find treatment for addiction needs. Maine’s earlier failure to expand Medicaid via MaineCare has left out up to 80,000 individuals who would have been covered at that point in time. Additionally, our state also eliminated care for 19- and 20-year-olds who are not insured at all.
In the 127th Maine legislative session, the Governor and lawmakers recognized the need to address opioid misuse issues by expanding care and allocating resources to open a new, 10-bed facility in Bangor. Funds were appropriated to open this facility in Bangor which would specifically address part of the serious opioid withdrawal and treatment need; however, this facility has yet to be open.
We are concerned that the roadblocks in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for this Bangor facility has added to timely building of this facility – thus Mainers in need of treatment and recovery services continue to have their needs unmet.
Under the AHCA, individuals who need that facility and other necessary services may no longer be eligible simply because they will not have Maine Care under this new federal proposal.
We at NASW are deeply concerned about this AHCA proposal. It will not meet the needs of those with legitimate chronic mental health care problems nor will it meet the needs of those with addiction problems in the state of Maine.
We applaud meetings and open communication but we are hopeful that Secretary Price and Governor LePage will take action that support Maine’s need for mandatory coverage of mental health and addiction needs.
Please read NASW’s full statement to learn why the association opposes AHCA.