A promising approach to getting drug addicts into treatment has come to Maine. Police departments in Augusta, Scarborough and Oxford County are exploring or starting programs modeled after a Gloucester, Massachusetts, initiative that offers amnesty to those seeking help in overcoming their opiate addiction.

But while law enforcement officials in Maine are making a good-faith effort to stem the tide of drug abuse, they are not getting the backup they need at the state level. Maine has few addiction treatment resources, especially for people who have neither money nor insurance — and MaineCare cuts have only made this shortage worse.

Policymakers elsewhere have taken steps to remove barriers to substance-abuse programs. If Maine truly wants to make a difference, it should follow their example.

The idea behind Gloucester’s pioneering Angel initiative is simple: Addicts who turn in their drugs and paraphernalia and seek help at the police station are referred to treatment instead of being prosecuted. Since the program was launched in June, nearly 200 addicts have received assistance in entering recovery programs, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello told a Boston TV station last month.

The Angel program is an innovative approach that could help address a growing scourge in Maine. Fatal drug overdoses here have reached all-time highs, and heroin deaths alone soared from seven in 2011 to 57 last year.

But a critical factor in the program’s success is support from the government. MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, offers far more comprehensive addiction treatment coverage than MaineCare, as Maine’s version of Medicaid is known. A request by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to add $27.8 million for new treatment services in Massachusetts is now moving through that state’s Legislature.

And a groundbreaking law took effect last week in Massachusetts that will dramatically increase access to recovery programs. The measure requires all health insurers to pay for up to 14 days of inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Patients no longer have to obtain prior approval before getting services — their doctor, not their insurance company, determines whether treatment is medically necessary. And as more people receive coverage for substance-abuse services, it’s expected that facilities will open up more treatment beds to accommodate them.

In Maine, on the other hand, thousands of low-income residents have lost publicly funded insurance coverage as the state has tightened state eligibility requirements. Two treatment centers have closed since spring: The facilities couldn’t afford to provide services without being reimbursed, and fewer of their patients had insurance.

What’s more, our governor, early and often, has said that the real problem is a lack of law enforcement resources. As law enforcement officials here try to carry out a treatment-oriented approach, we hope their experiences will lead him to take another look.

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