A Hopeful Path Forward at Maine’s Opiate Crisis Summit

In her opening remarks at the Opiate Response Summit, Governor Janet Mills expressed her appreciation for Gordon Smith. One of the Governor’s first actions, post-inauguration, was to found the Opiate Response and Prevention Taskforce directed by Smith. Mills’ founding of this taskforce underscores what a large priority the Opiate Epidemic represents for Mainers. Turning the Tide: Maine’s Path Forward in the Opiate Crisis, a summit which packed the Augusta Civic Center with over 1,000 people on the 15th, represented an overwhelmingly hopeful attitude towards harm reduction and prevention. Several days prior to the event, Smith commented that the need to cap registration at 1,050 people was a good problem to have. Many are invested in solving this Crisis.

The Governor opened the event with a grave message stressing the urgent need for awareness, and what is at stake for Maine families. In the past five years, 1,700 Mainers have died of drug overdose. If 1,700 baby seals washed up dead on the beach, said Mills, there would be a massive public response. “These are not ‘druggies’,” said Mills, “they are neighbors.” The Governor stressed in her speech that people affected by substance use disorders are family members: they are sons and daughters and parents, employees and employers, neighbors and friends.

Commissioners from many government Departments such as Health and Human Services, Public Safety, and Law Enforcement were present. Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin was also in attendance. Following the Governor’s remarks, attendees heard from Sam Quiones, author of Dreamland, a book which outlines the evolution of an American Opioid Crisis.

Afterward, the nine morning breakout sessions began. These were hosted by a variety of experts. The diverse topics from both morning and afternoon sessions included the following critical subjects:

· Addressing Stigma: Using Researched-Based Evidence

· Building Public Health Infrastructure

· Needle Exchanges and Naloxone Distributions

· Challenges in Recovery Centers and Housing

· Community Prevention Services at Work

· Data to Action: Harnessing Information to Tackle the Opioid Crisis

· Emerging Threats: Current and Predictive Trends

· Harm Reduction with Neonatal Focus

· How to Best Navigate Jobs and Transportation During Recovery

· Improving Access to Medications for OUD: Considerations for Special Populations

· Improving Access to Medications for OUD: Engaging More Clinicians to Offer Treatment

· Law Enforcement and its Role of Bringing Hope to Recovery

· MaineWorks: Offering Dignity, Trust, and a Path Forward

· OD Mapping and Overdose Response Through Community Partnerships

· Responsible Prescribing and Pain Control Debate: Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far?

· State Prevention Services: Opioid Task Force Update

· The Importance of Law Enforcement in Community Based Recovery

· The Power of Community Coalitions

· Voices of Recovery: Panel of Individuals in Recovery

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Peter Michaud, Debate Moderator addressed the audience at the Responsible Prescribing and Pain Control Debate breakout session.

At lunch, the parents of two young men who lost their lives to substance abuse disorders spoke and shared their story before the assembled audience. Former White House Director of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, then spoke on the importance of community support in the recovery process. Speaking on his own experience with the disorder, he highlighted the stigma which only perpetuates the issue. “Epidemics don’t happen in a vacuum,” he said. Botticelli stressed the ways in which the epidemic is exacerbated by poor data, over-prescription, and lack of information and resources. He closed his remarks by pointing out the number of options that Maine should employ moving forward, saying “We cannot dictate other people’s paths to recovery.”

The panel of speakers who following the afternoon breakout session demonstrated a deluge of support from state government bodies all over New England and the North East. The Senior Advisor to the Governor of Rhode Island Tom Coderre, Senior Advisor to the Governor of New Hampshire David Mara, and the Commissioner of Health in Vermont Dr. Mark Levine sat on the panel, as well as the President of the American Medical Association Dr. Patrice Harris. Coderre succinctly represented the mentality of support shared by those in attendance when he encouraged Maine to “flatter Rhode Island by mimicking any of their ideas.” The goal of the Summit was to build on existing positive information so New England can better tackle this unprecedented Crisis.

Turning the Tide: Maine’s Path Forward in the Opiate Crisis served as a lightning rod for activists who wish to generate a reason for hope. And there are reasons to be hopeful. The Summit alone demonstrates an effort by the administration and the public to address an Opiate

Crisis sweeping Maine and America. Those in the recovery process are being given a larger voice at the table. Maine Law Enforcement is now prepared to administer Naloxone to those experiencing an overdose. In fact, 2017 was Maine’s high water mark for overdoses. We are turning the tide, and this Summit was among the first steps of many more to come.

Kittery School Department Hosts Kick-off Celebration to Promote Free Summer Lunch Program

Kittery School Department hosted a kick-off pizza party this week welcoming children in their community to enjoy free lunch all summer long.  At the event they served pizza, watermelon, chocolate hummus with strawberries, snacks, and milk. This event is hosted annually to let the community know about the Summer Food Service Program that provides free lunch to all kids Monday through Friday throughout the summer months, completely free, no questions asked.

Kaitlin Beach, Shapleigh School Assistant Principal and Alli Gamache, Mitchell Primary School Principal
Kaitlin Beach, Shapleigh School Assistant Principal and Alli Gamache, Mitchell Primary School Principal

Funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Maine Department of Education in partnership with local sponsors throughout the state, the Summer Food Service Program is an extension of the Federal Child Nutrition program found in schools across the nation which provides free or reduced priced meals to families who qualify. The Kittery School Department is one of 463 sites located in Maine this summer who offer the Summer Food Service Program.

Traip Academy Assistant Principal/Athletic Director, Kittery School Department Superintendent, Eric Waddell, and Michael Roberge, Traip Academy Principal John Drisko serving pizza at the event
Traip Academy Assistant Principal/Athletic Director, Kittery School Department Superintendent, Eric Waddell, and Michael Roberge, Traip Academy Principal John Drisko serving pizza at the event

The strong connections between the Kittery School Department and their community allow them to not only host the summer meal program at the Kittery Community Center where kids are in and out all day participating in summer activities through the recreational department, but also provides the kids with other opportunities and activities available through community partnerships. For example, at the event this week, each student received a free backpack with school supplies tucked inside. The backpacks and the supplies are donated with the help of United Way and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Each time kids come back for a meal this summer they will get an additional item for their backpack. Wendy Collins, Kittery School Department School Nutrition Director and the organizer of the Summer Food Service Program, hopes it will help get kids to come back and eat each day and spread the word about this wonderful service to the community.

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Sarah Perkins and Catherine Hoffmann, from the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council

Also present at the event was the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council who have helped support the Kittery School Department through grant funding. During the event they helped serve the milk for lunch that day and promoted their Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative. In addition, there were representatives from Let’s Go! promoting their statewide initiative 5-2-1-0 Goes to Child Care to help communities maintain and improve upon their healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities. They provided activities and games for kids to enjoy after lunch, along with the many other fun things available including face painting and a large Thomas & Friends themed bounce house.

The event served 193 kids who all got to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal provided by a school department and its community who care so very much about the children and families who live in their community.

To find summer meal sites near you, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks, and type in your address. The map will be populated with the sites nearest to you. You can also text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211.

PRIORITY NOTICE: School Year 2019-2020 Enacted ED279 Subsidy Printouts Now Available

Thank you for your patience as we finalized School Year 2019-2020 ED 279 subsidy printouts to reflect the enactment of Public Law 2019 Chapter 343.  You may find these on the Maine Department of Education website:

FY 2019-2020 ED 279 Printouts

The subsidy amounts allocated to each school administrative unit are calculated using the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding model, based on $1.163 billion in General Purpose Aid (GPA) funding appropriated in the biennial budget.  Governor Mills proposed a $41.3 million increase for GPA in her biennial budget, resulting in a lower mill expectation from the prior year, down to 8.28 from 8.48.

The legislature approved the Governor’s budget, and appropriated an additional $3 million in funds to GPA for FY 2019-20, targeted toward Career and Technical Education schools and the Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The majority of school administrative units will not see a change in the enacted ED 279 from the preliminary ED 279, published on February 15, 2019, which were calculated based on the proposed budget.

If you have questions or need additional information as you review your enacted ED 279, please contact our School Finance Team:  Tyler Backus at tyler.backus@maine.gov    Ida Batista at ida.batista@maine.gov  or Paula Gravelle at paula.b.gravelle@maine.gov

WHY DATA MATTERS: SAU Leaders Invited to Train and Talk!

Are you a school or district leader who wonders why the Department of Education collects certain data sets, and what they are used for?  Have you ever wanted to have a frank discussion with the DOE’s Data Team about the data collections and how they could be improved?  Charlotte Ellis, the Maine Department of Education’s Data Manager will be hosting open discussion sessions throughout the state during the first two weeks of August.  These sessions will be held from 1-3pm in the same locations as the MDOE Data Team Summer Trainings.

The sessions will be geared toward each location’s participants, and the topics they have indicated interest in during the registration process.  Please use the following link to register and select the topics for the session you wish to attend.  Tip – if you have any interest in a topic, please move the indicator bar.  Leaving the bar in the middle without moving it registers a null response.

https://mainedoe.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8owiimlOciexsEt\

Dates and Locations – all sessions 1-3PM

August 6, Caribou High School

August 7, Brewer High School

August 8, Ellsworth Elementary/Middle School

August 12, Cony High School (Augusta)

August 13, Mt. Blue High School (Farmington)

August 14, Mt. Ararat Middle School (Topsham)

August 15, Buxton Center Elementary School

Please contact Charlotte Ellis with any questions at Charlotte.ellis@maine.gov 207-624-6696 or 207-485-3445

Questions & Answers regarding An Act to Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools

In an effort to support schools and districts as they align their practices and policies in response to the passing of Public Law 2019, Chapter 54, please see the Question and Answer document and resources, below.  

 Food Shaming

  1. What constitutes food shaming?  The law prevents public schools from:
  • denying a reimbursable meal to an otherwise eligible student who requests it;
  • requiring a student to throw away their meal after it has been served to them;
  • requiring a student to perform chores or work as a means of paying for one or more meals or as punishment for not paying for one or more meals;
  • refusing a meal as a form of or as part of a disciplinary action; or
  • openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or has payments due for a meal.

Grades

  1. What grade levels are impacted by this new law?

The law applies to all grade levels in a public school that provides students meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, therefore any grade enrolled in the public school.  The law does not apply to private schools.

Seniors

  1. Can schools prohibit seniors from participating in graduation functions/activities if the student has meal debt?
  2. When Seniors have balances at the end of the year, whether it is for meals, books, or computers, we do not pass out the cap and gown until the balance is paid.  Can we still do that?
  3. Our district charging policy has been that to receive graduation tickets or their cap and gown, seniors must have their lunch balance cleared up. Additionally, we have withheld open campus privileges or a superintendent’s agreement if there is an outstanding lunch balance. Will this still be allowable?

The law prevents openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student with a meal debt.  If the only reason a student is being prohibited from an activity is because of a meal debt, it would constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student.  If the prohibition is potentially based on one of a list of factors (owed books, uniforms, other debt) including a meal debt, it might not constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student, since there are multiple reasons for which a student is denied.  School administrative units are encouraged to consult with legal counsel about their specific policies.

Communication

  1. Are the cashiers allowed to tell the students when they are charging or close to charging?

A public school’s communications about a student’s meal debts (charging) must be made to the parent or guardian of the student rather than to the student directly except that, if a student inquires about that student’s meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry.  A public school may ask a student to carry to the student’s parent or guardian a letter regarding the student’s meal debt.  A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Are we allowed to let the children know that they are getting low on their account?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Most software schools are using automatically say “Please wait, low balance,” when a student uses their PIN. which is identifying the student, where others can hear it. Would that still be acceptable?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. If a student directly asks about balance information what is our answer? What if they are 18 years old?

If the student inquires about his/her meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry. This applies to a student enrolled at the public school, regardless of age. A student may be asked to deliver a notice to parents/guardians about the debt, but should not be approached unsolicited about the debt.

  1. Can we post a sign at the register telling students they can ask what their account balance is?

Yes. If the student inquires about their meal debt, the staff may answer their inquiry. Otherwise communication must be made directly to the parent/guardian, regardless of the age of the student.

A La Carte

  1. Our school policy says that if you owe money you cannot purchase a la carte items and there is no charging of a la carte items.  This policy has helped to keep our lunch debt down some. Are we still going to be able to say no to the extra items if they don’t have money?

Yes. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may discreetly notify a student that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).

  1. Charging for ala carte is not allowed so when the student is told that in line in front of other students, is that considered lunch shaming?

No. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may notify a student discreetly that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).  Efforts to make this policy known and well publicized should be made to avoid the situation and potential for embarrassment.

Alternate Meals

  1. Can Schools implement an alternative meal (with all components) until the debt is paid?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students. Provision of an alternative meal could openly identify or stigmatize a student.

  1. Our school provides a bag lunch to students with a negative balance before the lunch period so that it looks like a lunch brought from home. Can we keep doing this?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students.

Outstanding Debt

  1. What are we to do with the outstanding lunch balances? How do we encourage parents to be responsible?

Public schools should follow their policy or procedure for collecting payments from families. This policy/procedure should be shared publicly so parents are informed of the process.

  1. Can we send outstanding debts to a collection agency?

Yes.

  1. What happens when everyone owes and refuses to pay because they know they do not have to, in order to get a meal?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy.

  1. Who will pay for the unpaid balances?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy. Once the debt is determined to be uncollectable, such as after a student leaves the district or graduates, it is considered bad debt and is not an allowable expense of the Federal school foodservice program or any other Federal program. The debt would need to be paid by non-Federal funds, such as the general fund and the debt would become the responsibility of the public school at this point.

OTHER

  1. What is the State’s plan to provide funding for the lunch bills that won’t get paid?

The law was identified as an unfunded mandate and passed by a 2/3 vote by the Legislature.  Funding will need to be addressed at the local level.

  1. Does this apply to all meals, breakfast, lunch and snack?

This law applies to all programs that provide student meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. This includes the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Snack Service.

  1. Is there guidance available on how to handle unpaid meals?

The law requires the Department of Education to develop guidance for school administrative units relating to the collection of student meal debt, including, but not limited to, best practices and information on how to create an online system for the payment of student meal debt.

The Maine DOE has guidance available online, and  The USDA has guidance and resources available online, including a guide book.