As Maine’s legislative session nears an end, groups are urging lawmakers to prioritize making mental health and substance-use services available to children and teens without having to leave their town – or the state.
There is currently only one agency in Maine that operates an adolescent residential treatment program for substance use.
Greg Bowers, who is the CEO of the program – known as Day One – said it’s key to meet young people where they are. That may be at school, through a primary-care office, traditional treatment space – or even at home.
“How do we meet kids early on, intervene early,” asked Bowers, “so that we don’t end up in situations where families or youths aren’t being seen soon enough and end up in the justice system, or hospitals?”
A bill in the Maine Legislature would require the Department of Health and Human Services to work to develop more services for youth with substance-use treatment needs, including ‘detox’ beds in hospitals and intensive outpatient services.
Bowers said Day One has worked with courts and the juvenile-justice system to offer a path to recovery and treatment instead of commitment or other punitive measures.
He said there are a number of barriers to treatment for young people. Adolescents can sometimes be more resistant to it; substance-use can often be grounded in trauma; or a parent or other family member could be an active user.
“And there’s also a lot of stigma, still,” asked Bowers. “Families or communities or schools that may not fully realize, or even care to admit, that there’s a significant problem.”
The limited capacity of treatment options sometimes means families have to seek help out-of-state.
Bowers noted within the state’s HHS, education and corrections departments, there are existing resources for mental-health and substance-use care, but these efforts can be siloed or fragmented.
In addition to new funding, he said he thinks efforts should be made to better coordinate the existing funding.