Protesters to Gov. Baldacci: “Maine can do better.”

Hundreds of protesters packed the halls of the Maine State House yesterday, making their voices heard about the deep cuts Governor Baldacci is proposing in his change package plan to balance Maine’s budget. The protest came during the second and final day of legislative hearings on a new round of cuts that Baldacci proposed last week.

The cuts are in response to a deficit, originally forecasted at $95 million, that has more than doubled to $190 million. Baldacci has expressed his resistance to increasing taxes or dipping into Maine’s “rainy day fund” to help make up for the huge deficit. The proposed cuts will severely affect a wide range of social and educational services throughout Maine.

The cuts affecting social services include the elimination of prescription coverage for 18,000 childless adults on Medicaid.

Crossroads for Women was represented at the State House yesterday by Priscilla McKee-Meyers, CARN. The hearings were so packed, she never got the chance to read or hand in her 3 minute testimony. Here is her testimony:

March 12, 2008

Senator Rotundo, Senator Brannigan, Representative Fischer, Representative Perry, Members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and Health and Human Services:

My name is Priscilla McKee-Meyers, and I am the nurse manager at Crossroads for Women. Crossroads for Women provides gender-specific substance abuse treatment at its three facilities in Portland and Windham, offering outpatient and residential programs and services to women from the entire state of Maine.

As nurse manager, I see all of the clients before they start treatment at Crossroads for Women. About 80% – 90% of the women that come through our doors are already on some sort of medication, including suboxone, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication or mood stabilizers. Medications are also prescribed by Crossroads for Women’s doctors. These medications are a key component to our client’s treatment, which also includes behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Taking away the ability for non-categorical clients to get medications takes away basic preventative care. If these women can’t take care of themselves, the repercussions will affect all Mainers. Eliminating medications for non-categorical clients will result in more trips to the emergency room, higher rates of crime, more children left to the foster care system and full shelters. We will also see higher rates of pregnancy as a desperate attempt by women to get their MaineCare coverage back. The state will surely end up paying more in the end, financially and morally, by eliminating medications for non-categorical clients.

The elimination of services to the so-called “non-categorical” MaineCare recipients, or childless adults, will certainly affect women needing to access substance abuse treatment. Even if they find a way to access this needed treatment, they will not be able to get the medications they need to help them find and stay in sobriety and be a contributing member to society.

According to Baldacci spokesman David Farmer, the impact of yesterday’s testimony was not lost on the governor’s office.

“We know these cuts hurt,” Farmer said, but he noted that there are “other people out there who are also struggling to pay their bills and to make ends meet and to get by.”

The Appropriations Committee will rework Baldacci’s budget before submitting its own version to the full Legislature, which is scheduled to complete the 2008 session by April 16. The supplemental budget that the Legislature passes this year will patch up the two-year budget that lawmakers enacted in 2007.

Rally organizers: Maine Can Do Better
From the Portland Press Herald: Protesters decry budget cuts
From WCSH6: Angry Crowd Rallies Against Budget Cuts

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