AUBURN — Gov. Janet Mills on Friday announced a plan to create 140 new residential treatment beds at seven locations across the state for those suffering from the abuse of opioids.

The plan tentatively calls for 12 of those beds to be made available in Auburn. The way Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque sees it, those beds can’t get here soon enough.

Androscoggin County has a disproportionate amount of overdoses, the mayor said, compared to the rest of the state. In the last 12 months, Auburn rescue crews have responded to at least 10 overdose deaths and have administered the life-saving overdose reversal drug Narcan 85 times.

“We’re increasing efforts, but the main part is making sure people get the help they need,” Levesque said. “This is where good local and state collaboration is important. Not just enforcement, but fixing the issue.”

According to Department of Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Jackie Farwell, there are currently 34 licensed beds in Androscoggin County — 16 existing substance use disorder residential treatment beds at Catholic Charities and 18 medically supervised withdrawal beds at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

The additional beds will be supported by $6 million in state funding, according to Mills’ office. The plan will increase treatment beds by 40 percent in Maine.


“Maine is within the crushing grip of the opioid epidemic, worsened by the effects of the pandemic and the increased presence of highly lethal fentanyl. It’s killing a record number of Maine people — people who are our families, friends, and neighbors,” Mills wrote in a press release. “This funding through my Administration will significantly expand the availability of treatment beds across Maine so that we can save lives, put more people on the road to recovery, and, in time, turn the tide on this deadly epidemic.”

The plan marks the latest effort to combat the opioid crisis that has claimed more than 2,500 lives in Maine over the last five years. Last year, a record 716 overdoses were reported, an overwhelming majority of them linked to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The new beds are in addition to the 387 licensed beds for substance use disorder and detoxification currently in operation, according to the governor’s office. Maine added more than 140 new beds from 2021 to 2022. Altogether, more than 280 new beds have been created under the Mills Administration, more than doubling capacity — despite the challenges and increased demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic compounded the challenge of addressing substance use disorders in Maine,” said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “These projects, along with the new funding announced today to further strengthen the system, will help to save lives and support Maine people pursuing recovery.”

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health has awarded funding to six providers for renovation, capital and startup costs related to new or expanded beds for residential substance use disorder treatment and medically supervised withdrawal. The projects are at various stages of development, with more than 70 new beds already online or coming online within weeks, and the remainder expected to come online by the end of the year.

The combined $6 million in awards support the following projects:

Soul Sanctuary: 78 new beds across five locations in Portland
Pine Tree Recovery: 20 new beds in Portland
Milestone Recovery: 14 additional beds at a new facility in Portland
Catholic Charities: 12 new beds in Auburn
Day One: 6 new beds in Windham
Wabanaki Public Health: 6 new beds in Bangor
Aroostook Mental Health Services: 4 new beds in Presque Isle

Kathy Mockler, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Catholic Charities runs the St. Francis House, described as “a facility in Auburn dedicated to bringing health, recovery, and stability to the lives of men, aged 18 and older, who are struggling with chemical dependencies and substance abuse issues including drug and alcohol addiction, and other co-occurring use disorders.”

However, those who work in recovery services in the Lewiston and Auburn area said the destination of the 12 new beds was not certain on Friday.

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