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By Patricia Kimball
As a state, I see us moving forward with many wonderful initiatives, such as the work of the Health Leadership Board, the Bangor Area Recovery Network, the newly formed legislative opioid task force and small communities coming together to talk about what we are going to do with this public health crisis. I hear physicians coming forward to talk about the overprescribing of opioids and moving forward with new programs to work with chronic pain. I hear about state and federal grants to support medication-assisted recovery in physicians’ offices for the uninsured. All of these and many more are moving Maine forward in maintaining healthy communities and reducing drug overdoses.
But I hear little about the problem of recruiting and retaining a professional workforce, a problem I dealt with as an executive director of a substance use disorder and mental health treatment center. Even if our prayers were all answered today and we could open all the programs needed to support prevention, treatment and recovery, we do not have the workforce to fill the jobs. We have a behavioral health workforce problem that, if unaddressed, will leave us without the ability to offer the treatment necessary to start our community on a path to recovery. These jobs often are stressful and require a professional skill set to work with individuals who have complex problems that include substance use disorder, mental health, trauma and physical health issues.