LePage says he’ll zero out funding for methadone clinics that don’t offer counseling

Good morning from Augusta, where it was a long, cold, lonely winter but it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun and I say: It’s alright.

What? You say that sounds familiar? That’s just really absurd. I wrote that myself and if it sounds familiar it’s only because those are common words and values on such a gleaming midsummer Maine day. I know how closely the Daily Brief is scrutinized every day and I never said “doo doo doo doo” like the song does.

There you have it: the Trump campaign’s response to allegations that would-be first lady Melania Trump plagiarized portions of her speech at the Republican National Convention last night from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech.

I’m not ready or even really interested in making a judgment about whether Melania’s words were her own or not, but I must say that the “they were common words and values” defense isn’t that far out of line. I mean, don’t we all agree that a lot of political convention speeches sound the same? The bane of a journalist’s life is trying to write something interesting about someone with perfect hair at the front of the room gesturing and pointing at people and saying things like “we’re going to create jobs” and “we’re going to bring respect back to the office” and “I’ll give you a hot dog if you vote for me. With sauerkraut.” (OK, maybe that last line hasn’t been tried very often, though it’d make a great lead.)

Trump supporters responded to the allegations against Melania by accusing Barack Obama of copying a passage from a 2006 Deval Patrick speech in 2008.

As my editor remarked this morning, “what a world.” (He plagiarized that.)

The convention continues today and if you’re like me, you’ll have it streaming in the background. Due to the podium today are a number of prominent Republicans in the escalation to Trump’s own speech later this week. On the schedule today are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Gov. Chris Christie, who is from New Jersey but often vacations for periods of just a few hours in Maine.

Next week: The Democratic National Convention and more likely than not, more plagiarism allegations. — Christopher Cousins

Governor, first lady had chicken for supper last night in Boothbay

Gov. Paul LePage mentioned that this morning during his weekly radio address on WVOM and predicted that it would make headlines. I just had to oblige.

Seriously, though, most of his appearance this morning was focused on his comments on WVOM last week, when he said the following, as quoted here in the Daily Brief: “I’ve been trying to close down methadone clinics since I’ve been governor. When it comes to methadone, every expert I’ve talked to says there’s no clinical aspect to it. … It’s no help. It has to be in a program that’s monitored by clinicians.”

LePage said his next state budget proposal, which is due in January, will cut funding for methadone clinics that don’t provide counseling to people taking the medication as part of their treatment for addiction.

“I have been very, you might say, aggressive in trying to get a clinical therapeutic aspect to the methadone clinics,” said LePage. “In my next biennial budget, there will be no methadone clinics that do not have a clinical component to their clinics, period.”

LePage was critical of the media for reporting last week that he wants to close methadone clinics, even though that’s what he said and in 2015, he proposed eliminating state funding for methadone clinics in favor of moving patients to Suboxone treatment. That proposal was defeated in the Legislature.

“What I am against is standing on a street corner and watching people go into their methadone clinics and spending six or seven minutes there and they’re out,” said LePage. “The issue that I’m trying to get to here is very simply that it’s just another drug without any plan or methodology or clinical therapeutic counseling. It’s just a way of getting you the drug without any efforts to get you off it or getting clean.”

MaineCare rules already require that methadone clinics provide counseling, though cuts in state funding under LePage have made that difficult.

“The clinics are reimbursed at a rate that’s like a bundle,” said Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Health and Human Service Committee. “The cost of the drug and the counseling that is required is what’s included in that.”

This comes as the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules that would ramp up requirements for methadone clinics without any new funding, which advocates said would shutter some of the state’s clinics. In 2012, Medicaid reimbursement rates for the clinics were cut from $72 per patient per week to $60. A bill to restore the reimbursement rate passed through the Legislature this year but died when no funding was attached.

Here’s your soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is set to unveil a new proposal this morning that his office said in a press release “will bring common-sense reform to the food stamp program that will deter drug dealers from trading in EBT cards.” There were no other details. Given that Congress just began its summer recess, there is no hope of Poliquin’s proposal being considered for months. The timing is clearly designed with the November election in mind and the location of the unveiling, Lewiston, puts Poliquin among voters who are most familiar with the GOP’s welfare reform efforts, especially since last year’s bruising mayoral contest.
  • Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills has announced she will begin a public education campaign titled “Dose of Reality,” which is aimed at reducing the abuse of prescription painkillers in Maine. The campaign includes a website and at least three television spots that will be on the Maine airwaves in the coming months, according to a press release.
  • The Maine Military & Community Network will host its sixth-annual statewide conference Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. The theme for this year’s conference is “Fort Maine: Beyond the Base,” and is intended to focus on community support of veterans. Click here to register for the conference or for more information. — Christopher Cousins 

Reading list

What’s in a name

My 5-year-old was watching on a bit this morning as I wrote the Daily Brief and asked why there were “squiggly red lines” under some of the words. That’s because the computer thinks they are spelled wrong but they’re not.

“That one’s a name,” I said. “The computer doesn’t recognize it.”

“What’s that one?” he said, pointing to another squiggly red line

“That’s doo doo doo doo,” I said. That really made his day.

“Someone’s name is doo doo doo doo? Hahahahahahaha!” — Christopher Cousins



Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.