Sixty years ago, my family began a long struggle with substance use disorder. Our loved one became addicted to prescription pain medication. We lost her 20 years later to the ravages of that addiction. Stigma, shame and ignorance kept our family’s burden hidden, and so treatment never arrived for her. All of us were wounded.

So here we are, 60 years later, still struggling as a community to lead with love in helping our neighbors and families survive and heal from addictions. And along with the stigma of the physical and mental illness, criminalization has been added. People have not resisted that reflexive, innately unjust response, and legislators have doubled the damage and impeded the solutions that truly help.

It was a health crisis and a spiritual crisis for our family. It is a health crisis for families and individuals today and a spiritual crisis for society.

The Maine Legislature needs to do all it can to decriminalize this life and death disorder and declare a public health emergency; to establish access to risk-reduction with syringe exchange; and make a major increase in access to treatment and offers of treatment for Mainers whose lives are at risk every day.

Let us lead with love, using our best wisdom to go a different, courageous way to real reform in how we treat those who are struggling with substance use disorder.

Someone loses a loved one to that epidemic every day. We cannot rest until that changes.

Peg Hoffman, Lewiston

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