AUGUSTA — In an effort to help people dealing with substance abuse disorder, Gov. Janet Mills announced Saturday the steps the state will take to ensure access to treatment and counseling, accelerating financial relief for providers and promoting harm reduction strategies.

“While physical distancing is our best tool to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we also have to recognize its impacts on Maine people, like those with Substance Use Disorder, many of whom rely on in-person support for treatment and recovery,” Mills said. “My administration is taking these steps to try to help those with SUD get the support they need during this challenging time.”

“We are working to both prevent and treat Substance Use Disorder during these unprecedented times,” Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. “I urge all Maine people to reach out to those who are struggling and their families to let them know that help is still available.”

Mills signed an executive order temporarily relaxing restrictions on syringe exchange programs, lifting the requirement these programs collect one syringe for every one delivered.

Syringe exchange programs may also adjust their hours and their mobile locations to best serve their clients.

American Medical Association President Patrice Harris said Friday, “Sterile needle and syringe exchange is a proven harm reduction strategy. We commend Gov. Mills for her action,” as the AMA urged other states to do the same.

Flexibility for opioid treatment programs to provide home doses of methadone is also part of the effort. Patients who are determined by the programs’ clinicians to be stable and safe to take home additional doses may receive 14- or 28-day supplies.

DHHS is also moving to distribute more naloxone to treatment programs, with 20,000 doses expected to be purchased in April.

With Mainecare claims for substance abuse disorder up 30 times, Mills said MaineCare has been authorized and enhanced reimbursement for virtual visits.

Free, confidential peer recovery support is available seven days a week. For those who need help, or know someone who does, resources are also available by calling 211. For more urgent needs, call the state crisis line at 1-888-568-1112.

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