After those struggling with the disease of addiction go through withdrawal and stop using drugs, they need the support of sober living homes in order to stay substance-free.

As the opioid epidemic has surged, affordable, stable housing for people in recovery has been in short supply in Maine. But that could change if the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative gets the attention and funding it deserves this week in Washington.

Securing support for 48 beds in four Portland-area recovery homes is the goal of the local contingent’s meeting at the White House on Thursday with private investors. And it’s one that accords with the collaborative’s comprehensive plan, which seeks to build on and coordinate existing social services so that the addiction treatment system can accommodate more people in need and is easier for them to navigate.

Sober houses provide structure and accountability to those with addiction issues as they build the skills needed to remain substance-free. Recovery homes remove residents from the environments that enabled them to use, offering drug testing to ensure they stay sober, along with 12-step programs, a curfew and volunteer opportunities.

The Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative is taking a big step forward by planning to house people who need medication-assisted treatment for their recovery. Suboxone and methadone, which reduce drug cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms without producing a high, have been shown to be the gold standard of both detoxification and long-term treatment. But sober living residences that allow Suboxone patients are almost nonexistent in Maine — an approach that’s neither compassionate nor cost-effective.

The proposal to expand sober living space in Maine will help people at all stages of the recovery journey. The only detox center now operating in Maine, run by Portland’s Milestone Foundation, has been housing clients who’ve finished the program but are having a hard time finding a place to live where they won’t be tempted to use again.

That means there’s less room for those trying to withdraw safely from opioids, contributing to a staggering waiting list and perpetuating a grim cycle of relapsing, overdoses, emergency room visits and — sometimes — death.

There’s no one simple solution to Maine’s drug epidemic. But the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative has developed evidence-based proposals that could reduce bottlenecks throughout the treatment process, and we hope the group gets the financial backing it needs to put its plans into action.

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