Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jun 2000
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2000, Bangor Daily News Inc.


Recent arrests by police in Bangor and statewide should remove any
doubts that Maine is seeing an increase in the use of heroin and the
abuse of highly addictive prescription drugs. The recent compromise
between the state and the city of Bangor to discuss treatment options,
however, falls short of what's needed.

Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Duby and City Council Chairman Michael
Aube last week agreed to shelve a plan for an in-depth look at
methadone and other types of treatment in favor of a public forum on
the issue. A forum is a fine way to get a sense of what the public
thinks about a methadone clinic and may even answer some basic
questions about the drug. But it doesn't allow the city to participate
in making formal recommendations about how to proceed.

Bangor is like a lot of small communities -- differences here often can
be solved over a cup of coffee, among people who have known each other
for years. This time, a less personal, more divisive approach has been
taken, splitting the city and ceding to the state questions better
answered, or at least influenced, locally. But Bangor still can take
positive action, educating itself both about the problem of opiate
addiction and the possible means to reduce or eliminate it.

The public forum is scheduled for July. Before that happens, the City
Council should agree with the Mental Health Department to select five
people each and five more in common to try again to create a 15-member
task force that, while it might not hold the most convivial of
meetings, could nevertheless draw up a range of methods for stopping
this form of drug abuse and get help for those addicted. The current
draft task force list already contains names of people both sides
could agree to; surely, each can list five more who are open-minded
enough to listen to both sides and come to some agreement.

And even before that, local city officials, people associated with
Eastern Maine Healthcare and Acadia Hospital and various other
residents who have shown intense interest in this issue might again
sit down together informally, if for no other reason than to ensure
they understand what points they already agree on and where they
disagree. Such a discussion is certain to be wide-ranging and may turn
up issues about process that the state could then address at the
public forum.

The presence of heroin and the seemingly pervasive abuse of legal
drugs in the region have put everyone on edge. But Bangor cannot let
the issue harm the community as the drugs themselves harm the abuser.
The question must always come back to how can residents fight this
problem -- together.
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