February 23

Drug treatment funding in Maine is falling, but demand is greater than ever

The number of people seeking treatment for opiate addiction has increased 15 percent since 2010; funding has decreased by 7 percent during the same period.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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Daniel Vassie Jr., recovering heroin addict from New Gloucester

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Her initial attempts at treatment failed. She didn’t have insurance, didn’t qualify for MaineCare and couldn’t afford more than suboxone treatment, which didn’t address the root cause of her addiction. Small said she never was good at facing the problems in her life and drugs made them go away.

When she enrolled in an intensive outpatient treatment program in 2010, the bills piled up, unpaid.

Then, in January 2011, she found out she was pregnant.

“I just decided that even if I never got the chance to raise that child, I was going to make sure it was healthy,” she said. “I was going to give it a chance.”

Her pregnancy made her eligible for MaineCare, and she signed up for WIC, food stamps and counseling. She was prescribed subutex, a form of suboxone that is safer for pregnant women.

Small said when she was admitted to the hospital to deliver her baby, she was treated like a junkie, not like someone who was trying to get clean. She said hospital workers didn’t understand that she was in treatment, that she was trying to get better for the baby.

“That’s one of the reasons I feel as strongly as I do about speaking out,” she said. “Like people don’t feel guilty enough without that stigma.”

Small, now 34, stayed clean and kept her child, now a healthy 2-year-old. She works at Opportunity Alliance in Portland, which coordinates nearly all of the region’s social service needs, and sees people every day who are where she used to be.

She also no longer receives public assistance. She still takes suboxone but pays for that herself because, as she says, “Why mess with it?”

“I’m killing it right now,” she said. “My life is great, I have a great job, I have a husband and son. Why would I chance relapsing if this helps me?”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:


Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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Additional Photos

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Steve Danzig, drug counselor in Windham and a former addict

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Sayra Small, recovering heroin addict from Durham

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Pharmacist Jim Pearce fills a suboxone prescription at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program in Boston last year. Suboxone is an opiate replacement therapy drug used to help treat opiate cravings and withdrawal. Drug treatment officials say addicts often have their doses of suboxone or methadone tapered gradually until they no longer need it, but that timeline can vary depending on the severity of one’s addiction.

File Photo/Reuters

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