On June 13, about 50 Mainers traveled to Augusta to urge lawmakers to fund LD 1689 — a bill to maintain and expand harm-reduction programs. Health care professionals, veterans, city officials and persons in recovery believe the $1.7 million cost will save lives and improve the health of those with substance use disorder. The seven programs serving all of Maine are drastically underfunded. They provide syringe exchange, proven to reduce HIV and hepatitis C, and naloxone to prevent overdoses. Staff also refer clients to treatment and other services, vital steps toward recovery.

The most powerful voices that day were those of young women and men who understand firsthand the wreckage that substance use disorder causes. In recovery now, they’re committed to helping those still in the grips of opioid use. They know that expanding services for harm reduction will work.

Gov. Mills has said tackling the state’s opioid crisis is a high priority. She has scheduled the Opioid Response Summit for July with national experts on substance use disorder, at a $40 entry charge. We could praise these moves to bring the crisis to the forefront. But hasn’t it been right there for the past decade — in the homes of our families, friends and neighbors; on the streets; in the “died unexpectedly” obituaries and tears; in the tries at rehab and the failures; in the call for more comprehensive services?

It is time to listen to people in recovery, who understand the problem.

It is time to stop talking, take action and fund harm-reduction programs.

Susann Pelletier, Lewiston

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