My name is Courtney Allen, and I am a person in long-term recovery. For me, that means that today my community has an activist. I serve as the mentor for Family Treatment Recovery Court, as a chapter leader for Young People in Recovery, and as the co-founder of the only recovery residence in Augusta: James’ Place.

Each day, someone calls me seeking treatment for his or her disease and, more often than not, we are unable to find it. Detoxs and rehabs have daunting waiting lists and medication-assisted therapy most often requires insurance. With seemingly few options, many people turn back to heroin to cope with withdrawal. Every night, I go to bed hoping that tonight is not the night they die of an accidental overdose.

What is most difficult to quantify are the lives ruined by this epidemic — the lost human potential. I have heard the screams of a mother finding out her only son is dead. I have held children who have lost parents. I have sent letters to our youth as they sit in prison branded with a felony; upon release, they are blocked from jobs, affordable housing and denied student loans. I have watched from the front lines as Maine loses a whole generation to the opioid epidemic and our failed public policy.

The 128th Legislature has a significant opportunity to pass and fund important legislation (L.D.s 1711, 1707 and 1430), recommended by the state opioid task force, that would reduce the overdose deaths in Maine.

Our legislators have a unique chance to stand with Maine’s people in the response to the opioid epidemic and stop playing politics with the lives of our people. They must pass and fund the recommendations of the opioid task force this year. Our families will pay the price if they do not, and 418 more deaths — the number of overdose deaths in 2017 — is too high a price to pay.

I fear that politics as usual will stall these bills until the next legislative session. Our politicians will justify this by saying it will be easier to fund them with a new governor, and at least 418 more Mainers will die waiting for that funding.

If this plays out the way I think it will, my work over the next year will include many more phone calls to mothers and children. By not acting, the 128th Legislature will contribute to these deaths.

Courtney Allen lives in Augusta. She is a chapter lead for the organization Young People in Recovery, a co-founder of James’ Place recovery residence, and a mentor in Family Treatment Court.


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