AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley made her 17th State of the Judiciary speech to state lawmakers Tuesday in Augusta.
She hit on three key points, the first being the current and planned upgrades to courthouses and facilities, the second was the switch to digital records.
Then she addressed what she feels is impacting all aspects of life in Maine...the opioid epidemic.
"The Department of Public Safety and the DEA in Maine reports that they intercepted literally millions of doses of heroin and fentanyl in 2017." During her address Chief Justice Saufley cited numbers indicating the number of drug over dose deaths for last year climbed by 11 percent - compared to the record breaking numbers of 2016 - up to 418 deaths.
That is an average of 1 Mainer dying from an overdose every 21 hours. "The stark reality is this, people are dying, families are hurting, communities feel hopeless. We know we're not alone this is happening in many other states but we shouldn't sugar coat it. What we in government are doing is not enough."
So Saufley devised a plan of attack on the drug problem and presented her plan for a pilot project which drew a standing ovation. "A full scale wrap around drug court, this would be a first of its kind project in Maine. It would include immediate and extensive access to addiction treatment, mental health treatment, comprehensive case management, testing, sober housing, job training, employment assistance, transportation, family related services and long term follow up." (applause)
She said her plan has the support of Governor LePage and she believes now is the time to put the program in place. "Fairly quickly we will learn whether a more comprehensive approach to addiction actually yields better outcomes, it won't be inexpensive but the long term consequence of this failure to find an answer to this crisis are beyond measurement."