Maine Policy Matters

The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center is a nonpartisan, independent research and public service unit of the University of Maine (UMaine).

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Tuesday Nov 21, 2023

On this episode, we interview Mikayla Reynolds, Tamra Benson, Santiago Tijerina, and Caroline Paras, winners of UMaine’s 2023 Student Symposium. The mission of the UMaine Student Symposium is to give graduate and undergraduate student researchers the opportunity to showcase their work, research, and creative activities to the greater community, fostering conversations and collaborations that will benefit the future of Maine and beyond.
Mikayla graduated as Salutatorian in May 2023 and earned her B.S.B.A with majors in management and marketing. She is currently a graduate student pursuing her MBA with concentrations in sustainability and public & non-profit management and is an Alfond Ambassador Scholar. She is a Sustainability Graduate Fellow with the George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. Mikayla serves as the Lead Peer Coach for TRIO Student Support Services, where she partners with students on their personal and collegiate goals. She is also a core organizer and the Impact Assessment Director for the Black Bear Mutual Aid Fund.
Tamra Benson (she/her) graduated from the University of Maine in 2023 with a B.A. in Biology. She is the founder and vice president of the Black Bear Mutual Aid Fund. She now works as a Community Organizer for Food AND Medicine, a nonprofit based in Brewer whose motto is that no one should have to choose between food, medicine, and other necessities. At FAM, Tamra primarily helps to coordinate the Collective Gardens Program. She strongly believes that everyone, no matter their circumstances, deserves to have their needs met, and that community care initiatives are healing and effective methods for collective, sustainable change. 
Santiago Tijerina’s documentary short film titled, Climate Action at the University of Maine, won first prize in the arts category at the 2023 Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) Student Symposium. Tijerina currently attends the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies at the Maine College of Art & Design.
Caroline Paras grew up in Southern California as the daughter of immigrants from Argentina, whose own families escaped religious persecution in the Old World. A first generation American, Caroline has been proud to call Maine her “home” since 1993. Over the last three decades, she has pursued two distinct careers: first as an educator who helped teachers create service-learning opportunities for K-12 students; and second, as a planner who engaged residents in economic and community development. Her third career was born on a trip to Italy, where she traveled to Bologna to learn how the distinct products of Denominazione d'Origine Protetta (DOP) Parma are made. Through an Interdisciplinary PhD at the University of Maine, she is researching whether agritourism experiences on culinary trails can facilitate consumer loyalty, brand experience, and regional economic development, thus keeping working farms and waterfronts in production while transforming consumers into lifelong customers of Maine farm and fishery products. On the side, Caroline also serves as the principal of her own consulting firm, ParasScope, providing market research and grant writing to support local and regional food economies. Caroline graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a double major in Political Science and Communication. At the University of Southern Maine, she has earned a Master of Arts in American and New England Studies, Graduate Certificate in Community Planning, and a second Bachelor’s in Tourism and Hospitality (‘22). She lives in Portland with her husband, Peter.
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Tuesday Nov 07, 2023

On this episode, we discuss the Maine League of Women Voters, and this organization’s ties to the Margaret Chase Smith Library and most notably, Margaret Chase Smith herself. 
First is an introduction by Dr. David Richards, the director of the Margaret Chase Smith Library on Margaret Chase Smith’s lifelong connection to the League of Women Voters, how she won the League’s Carrie Chapman Catt Award, and the significance of this honor. Then we talk with Anna Kellar, executive director of the League Of Women Voters of Maine, about what it truly means to make democracy work, their essay, “What’s In a Name? Being a League of Women Voters in 2022”, and their connection with the Margaret Chase Smith essay series. Kellar’s essay was featured in Volume 31, Issue 1 of Maine Policy Review.
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Tuesday Oct 24, 2023

In this episode, we talk with Edgelynn Venuti and Victoria Leavitt about their winning essays in the Margaret Chase Smith Library Essay Contest on the government’s role in combating climate change.
You can find Edgelynn's essay here:
You can find Victoria's essay here:
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Tuesday Oct 10, 2023

On this episode, we talk with Caroline Noblet, Jean MacRae, Dianne Kopec, and Caleb Goossen about PFAS (Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances) and their effects on the environment, Maine’s efforts to combat it, the public’s understanding of the issue, and how PFAS affects agricultural systems and interstate commerce.
Caroline Noblet's MPR article: “Forever Chemicals Needing Immediate Solutions: Mainers’ Preferences for Addressing PFAS Contamination
Jean Macrae's MPR article: “Estimated Greenhouse Gas Emissions from PFAS Treatment of Maine Drinking Water”
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Tuesday Sep 26, 2023

On this episode, we talk with Rebecca Schaffner, Chris O. Yoder, Brian Kavanah, and David L. Courtemanch about the Clean Water Act, in celebration of Maine Policy Review’s special section titled “50 Years of the Clean Water Act.” This significant milestone of half a century since the passage of the Clean Water Act, we are bringing in a panel of experts to highlight Maine’s efforts to improve water quality and the need to maintain and strengthen water quality protections.
You can find the articles discussed in this episode by following this link:
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Tuesday Sep 12, 2023

On this episode of Maine Policy Matters, we talk with Ali Abedi, Salimeh Sekeh, and Peter Schilling about navigating AI in research and education.
More from Ali Abedi:
More from Salimeh Sekeh:
More from Peter Schilling:
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Tuesday Aug 29, 2023

On this episode of Maine Policy Matters, we’ll be talking with Peggy McKee, director of the Maine Government Summer Internship Program, to hear about the history and impact on students and government agencies. We’ll also be hearing from a few interns and their supervisors throughout the episode to get an inside look at what it’s like to participate in this program. 
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Tuesday May 09, 2023

Today’s episode has two parts. Part one is a synopsis of Amanda Rector’s article, “Maine’s Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy”. Part two features an interview with Everett Beals and Michael Delorge, winners of Margaret Chase Smith Library’s 2020 essay contest. Beals’s article is titled, “Making Maine More Attractive to Young People” and Delorge’s is titled, “Progress for Young Mainers Paved by Education”. The essay prompt asked students to propose how they would make Maine “the way life should be” for young people so that more of them will choose to live in a state with one of the oldest populations in the nation.
You can find the articles here:
[00:00:00] Eric Miller: Before we start today's episode, we'd like to let listeners know that this is our last episode of season three. We'll be back for season four on August 29th, 2023, covering a variety of topics like PFAS, Investing in Teachers' Leadership Capacity: A Model from STEM Education, Maine's Libraries, Moose and Ticks, and AI in Higher Learning. Thanks for your support throughout this season, and we look forward to returning in the fall.
Now let's get started with the episode. How has Maine's changing demographics affected our workforce economy policy and Maine's younger generation in light of Covid-19?
This is the Maine Policy Matters podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I'm Eric Miller, research associate at the center.
On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today's episode will have two parts. Part one is a synopsis of Amanda Rector's article, "Maine's Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy." Part two will feature an interview with Everett Beals and Michael Delorge, winners of Margaret Chase Smith Library's 2020 essay contest. Beals article is titled, "Making Maine More Attractive to Young People" and Delorge is titled, "Progress for Young Mainers Paved by Education." The essay prompt asked students to propose how they would make Maine "the way life should be" for young people so that more of them will choose to live in a state with one of the oldest populations in the nation.
Amanda Rector is the Maine state economist, we've had her on the podcast before, a position she has held since 2011. Rector is a member of Maine's Revenue Forecasting Committee and serves as the governor's liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. She also serves on the advisory board for the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and is a member of the Board of Visitors at the Muskie School of Public Service.
Everett Beals is a rising senior at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, pursuing a degree in environmental science with a minor in creative writing. On campus, Everett has served on Clark's Undergraduate Student Council and serves for the Department of Philosophy and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. In the fall semester, he'll serve as editor-in-chief of Clark student Newspaper, The Scarlet. He spends his summers in Maine as a faculty member at a summer camp, working as the instructor for sea kayaking and marine biology. Everett is a graduate of Kennebunk High School in Kennebunk, Maine.
Michael Delorge of Biddeford, Maine, is a third year student at the University of Maine pursuing a dual degree in biology and political science. On campus, Michael is the president of the University of Maine Student Government and also leads UMaine's Partners for World Health Club. He is a John M. Nickerson Scholar and a Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center scholar researching the Maine substance use epidemic. Michael has also been a UMaine UVote Ambassador, a member of the Sophomore Owls Tradition Society, a resident assistant, and recently inducted into the Senior Skulls Tradition Society. Michael hopes to pursue a career in health policy upon graduation.
Rector's, Beals's, Delorge's respective articles were published in volume 29, issue 2 of Maine Policy Review, a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to the original article, which can be found in the episode description.
Rector argues that the events of 2020 were a sobering reminder of why it is important to understand the demographics of a region. With the onset of Covid-19 our lives were upended. The economy, which had been chugging merrily along, came to a screeching halt. There is nothing like a public health crisis to help clarify that every policy, at its core, is about people.
The fundamental purpose of any policy, be it federal, state, or local, is to safeguard and improve the wellbeing of people. The understanding of any policy decision, therefore, must start with a understanding of demographics. Demographics describe the characteristics of a population. The most basic demographic data or simple population counts: how many people are living in a given area at a point in time? From here we can delve into ever more detailed demographics such as age and sex, race and ethnicity, migration patterns, fertility and mortality rates. These demographics provide the data we need to make policy decisions.
The Decennial Census is the single best source of demographic data available in the United States. Every 10 years, the US Census Bureau accounts every person living in the country and gathers some basic demographic data about them. These decennial population counts are used to determine each state's representation in Congress as well as districts for state legislatures. They're also used to distribute billions of dollars of federal funds every year. Policymakers, researchers, business owners, and others use the data to make decisions that affect our lives every day.
Helpfully, Maine became a state the same year the United States conducted its fourth decennial census. This means we have a snapshot of what Maine's population looked like near the time of statehood. In 1820, when Maine became the 23rd state in the nation, Maine's total population was 298,335, 3% of the US total at the time, and the twelfth largest population. Only 13% of the population was 45 or older, compared to around 12% of the US population. Reflecting the times, the census counted "free white" males, and females separately from slaves and "free colored" males and females. Maine's population density of 10 people per square mile was nearly twice that of the 5.5 people square mile for the nation.
By 1920, Maine's total population had increased more than 150% to 768,014, but this was only 0.7% of the US total. The 1920 census included six different options for "color or race." Despite the increase in categories, population remain 99.7% white.
Jumping ahead, another 100 years to 2020, Maine's total population has increased another 75%, making Maine the 42nd most populous state in the country. Half Maine's population is age 45 or older, compared to around 42% of the US population.
The 2019 population estimate from Maine shows 93% of the population as "white alone, non-Hispanic." Maine has the highest percentage of white alone, non-Hispanic population in the country. Since the beginning, Maine's population has grown more slowly than the nation's, and while population density has increased, Maine has become relatively less densely populated than the rest of the country. Participation in labor force has changed substantially over the past 200 years as baby boomers age, labor force participation rates in Maine and the United States will continue to decline. Employment itself has followed a similar trend with a rapid increase in the 1970s, but Maine reached a new record non-farm employment level in 2016, followed by a further increases in 2017, 2018, and 2019. It is still unknown exactly what trajectory current economic conditions will take.
The single most dominating demographic force in Maine in recent years has been the aging of baby boomers, with this generation making up around 27% of Maine's population. As baby boomers continue to retire, fewer new workers will enter the workforce, which may lead to fewer available workers in the future unless more younger workers move to Maine. Maine has seen a natural population decline since 2010, but net migration has helped offset this decline and led to increased population growth. In 2019, Maine's rate of net domestic migration ranked 16th in the nation, an overall population growth ranked 25th.
According to US Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the only age cohort that saw net domestic out migration in Maine in 2018 was age 75 and older. The largest increase in the domestic migration rate came out of the 18 and 19 year olds. We also saw high rates of migration for young children and adults aged 30 to 44. Demographics are on our minds more than ever these days, even if we don't realize it. There are some possible silver linings for Maine. Those rural parts of the state that may have seemed too far for some people in the not-too-distant past, suddenly now hold new attraction. While some businesses in Maine have certainly faced tremendous uncertainty and unpredictability in our bicentennial year, they have also demonstrated their adaptability.
That concludes our synopsis of the Rector article. We will now move on to the interview with Michael and Everett.
Thank you both for joining us today.
[00:09:31] Everett Beals: Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure.
[00:09:32] Michael Delorge: Thanks for having us.
[00:09:33] Eric Miller: Since both of your essays were published in Maine Policy Review in 2020, would you both mind catching up our listeners on what you've been up to since you wrote your high, essays in high school? Michael, we'll start with you.
[00:09:44] Michael Delorge: Yeah, sure. I think I submitted my essay in the height of the pandemic. And at that point, I don't even know if I knew where I was gonna college at that point. But I've just spent my last three years finishing up my third year here at the University of Maine in Orono. I started as a biology major, pre-med, decided that I did not want to go to med school, and I picked up a political science major and I'm leaning towards going in, into a public health policy in grad school.
I've done some work here on the student government. I'm the president of the student government for the remainder of this year and for next year. I've done some work in global public health with this branch of a Portland-based nonprofit called Partners for World Health, and my club here at UMaine is a branch of their chapter and or a branch of their nonprofit.
And we sort medical supplies from some local Bangor area hospitals and distribute them down to Portland, who distributes them all over the world. Last May, I got the opportunity to go to Senegal on a, like a non-religious medical mission trip with a nonprofit. And I've done some stuff in voter engagement while I was at UMaine and just try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I possibly can with political science and clubs and whatnot.
Yeah, I didn't think I would be here doing this, going to a STEM school in high school studying biology and sciences and stuff like that, but here we are.
[00:11:15] Eric Miller: That's fantastic. You clearly, Covid, didn't really slow you down that's all fantastic stuff, Everett, how about you?
[00:11:20] Everett Beals: Yeah I guess we're both juniors now I ended up going to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
I had a pretty good idea even before I enrolled anywhere that I want to do environmental science for a bachelor's degree. That's what I stuck with. At Clark, there are three, three tracks and I'm on the environmental science and policy track, so that's a program I've really enjoyed. I also added a minor in creative writing on the suggestion of one of my advisors who's been big help to me, as a personal editor and someone who's helped me push my boundaries.
So that's something I've really enjoyed. In terms of extracurriculars I was on Clark's undergraduate student council for two years. And I've been writing for our student newspaper the Scarlet for three years. I'm currently the news editor and next year I'll be the editor in chief. I have a couple jobs on campus that I really enjoy doing.
One is that I'm an undergraduate admissions ambassador, and the other is that this year I'm a peer learning assistant for a philosophy class on environmental ethics. So that's what I've been up to in terms of like during the academic year. And yeah I'm pretty happy where I am.
[00:12:19] Eric Miller: Oh, that's fantastic.
Yeah. I imagine you've read a fair amount of, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson in your journey.
[00:12:25] Everett Beals: Absolutely.
[00:12:25] Eric Miller: That's fantastic. As fellow bachelor's in environmental studies myself, really appreciate that. Everett, when you wrote your essay, you had a statement, quote, first and most importantly, we need to emphasize that we as a whole state have to solve the problem together.
Could you speak to that problem you discussed in your essay and how collaboration within the state could help solve that issue?
[00:12:48] Everett Beals: Yeah, I was trying to recognize basically the geography of the situation we're dealing with. Michael and I are both from New York County. Michael, I know you went to MS SM, which is a lot further north than where we ended up settling.
But I was trying to recognize that the state is a big place, and I have grown up in kind like my entire life and I wanted to acknowledge that my experience was siloed. And understanding Maine's history, a lot of the population has been concentrated sort on that bottom southwestern portion, but the state being so large, in fact, so much of it that frankly I have not yet seen myself. I think it's really important, especially with the kinds of frontier communities that I was talking about, Skowhegan being one of them, but also lots of towns like, which are important for my family ties like Millinocket which used to be major industrial centers and now in the recent past have been struggling. I was trying to make it clear because I believe this really firmly that any solution that's going to apply to the entire state of Maine needs to be informed by the entire populace of the state of Maine.
So it can't come just from Kennebunk and it can't come just from Orono. It needs to come from everywhere. I know that sounds aspirational. It's vague in a sense, but that was my emphasis that we can't silo any solution that we have, and it's really important to hear every kind of diverse perspective that we have.
So that's what I was getting at and trying to start there saying, we need a comprehensive, holistic solution that everyone should be a stakeholder in.
Totally fantastically put. Michael, do you have any comments on the same type of issue, like statewide thinking?
[00:14:22] Michael Delorge: Yeah. Yeah.
I think Maine is not diverse in a lot of ways, but it's very diverse in more ways. I, like Everett said, so Everett and I crossed paths a lot when we were growing up being from neighboring towns. And Everett said, I'm from Bedford in York County, and I had the opportunity to go up to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Arista County in Limestone, Maine.
I could see the Canadian border from my dorm room. You can't get that in Bedford, Maine. And now I'm in Central Maine going to college. And I've seen the two Maines that people talk about, that really urban, rural divide. And I wish that more students, young people could see that, because Maine is really diverse in a lot of what it offers geographically.
And I definitely agree with what Everett's saying, where we need like a whole state approach to this. There's a lot of communities represented from every corner of the state. And I've noticed that kind of as a student in the University of Maine's system too, when I talk with people that go to other UMS schools it's something that students are aware of too.
[00:15:31] Eric Miller: Yeah. And as someone who isn't a native manor myself, but spent quite a few years there, I find that when I describe what Maine's like and what you should do when you visit, don't just stop at Freeport if you're gonna go up the coast, or don't skip all the coast and go straight to Acadia. Those places are all beautiful, but the type of Maine that you get from every stop along the coast from Portland to Lubec, you get so much variation in there, in economy, in population density, in just the natural features. It's just really interesting and this obviously gets way more diverse as you go west inland.
No, I completely agree. And oh, go ahead, Everett.
[00:16:12] Everett Beals: That divide isn't just like a social thing that, that Mainers have made up in our minds. It's a tangible political boundary between Maine's two congressional districts and Maine is only one of two states that can actually split its electoral votes, right?
Yep. So it's a real thing. And as you're saying though, it's really different from town to town, even just one, one town over, even in York County. So I absolutely agree with what you're saying. Yeah.
[00:16:33] Eric Miller: Michael, you close your essay by writing, "encouraging young Mainers to feel their own fire and ambition as Senator Smith puts it, while they give back and contribute to their communities and economy, is how we make Maine the way life should be."
Could you speak to your experience with the Maine education system and the ways you were encouraged to feel your own fire and ambition?
[00:16:55] Michael Delorge: Yeah. I think a lot of what I meant through that wording was just like helping students find their own purpose is really important. Helping students find their own purpose in the state of Maine is also really important.
And I think the state should invest in opportunities that allow students to find their own purpose. In, I think 1994 the state allocated funds to found my high school. That's a pretty new school and it's a magnet school. It's all state funded. The taxpayers of the state of Maine, paid for my education rather than the taxpayers of my town. And I am personally very grateful for the education that I received there, not only in science and technology and math, but in political science and social science and humanities. And just the lived experience of being up there. And that was how I found my purpose.
But I also know for a lot of students that I would have graduated with in Biddeford High School. They found their purpose through trades or business, which wasn't something I experienced later on in high school. Like I'd talk about in my essay, there were students that I would've graduated with that had multiple trade certifications before I had even figured out where I wanted to go to college.
And, for them that was how they found their purpose. And for me I'm still finding mine, but I think the investment in that is really crucial and like just meeting students where they're at, like we talked about just now geographically too, is huge and investing in those opportunities.
[00:18:31] Eric Miller: Everett, you have alluded to, but to this by staying the course in, in a subject matter that stayed consistent over the years since before starting college, what's something about like environmental policy or your education that found that you found inspiration or were energized by
[00:18:48] Everett Beals: Yeah, I think first off, I really have to thank some of my teachers.
Lisa Farrell was my biology teacher, and she also taught IB environmental science. That was one was the intervention of a really good teacher. The other is that I guess we mentioned before when we started this conversation earlier that, Michael and I were both boy scouts, so I had that experience in the first place and I've always like paddling and like kayaking, so that was part of the connection.
But another is that, like when you live in Maine it's hard to not be aware of the pressing situation we have globally with global climate change. And to me, just trying to understand that and loop it all back into what's happening in my backyard was really important to me. So that is what motivated me, motivated me to stay on that track.
My interests have evolved over time, but no matter what, like that will be my grounding experience was, what I got outta high school. And I'm glad that this is the kind of skillset I've been able to develop as an undergraduate. I think it's really important, and I actually, I just reread your essay, Michael, and you said in, as an example, that Maine students should be learning, like really early on, correct me if I'm wrong, about climate change and about the way that it's affecting our fisheries the way it's affecting more generally, just our agriculture system in general. The way it's happening right here in every town in Maine. I think that's a fantastic idea. And you know it's happening in some classrooms, but maybe not everywhere. And as you said in your essay, that is largely a funding issue. So I think that's one example of that's a great way to bring Maine students to understand the relevancy of the work they're doing in their towns and that gets them involved in their communities.
Make them feel, our children should feel like they are stakeholders in their communities and in our climate future. I really like that point you made three years ago.
[00:20:26] Michael Delorge: Yeah, thanks. And I'm glad you brought up that thing about like climate change as well because, there are so many great research institutions here in the state and advocacy institutions like, Jackson Laboratory, Bigelow Labs, like those are just two that come to mind that I had some experience with in high school that are like working on, genetics and also like marine research that, can get into local school systems and really partner with local school systems to show students that there are opportunities here for them, waiting for them, after they go to college, maybe somewhere else. And they can come back and contribute to research on the Gulf of Maine, which is the fastest warming body of water in the entire world.
And it's right in our backyard. And not a lot of people know that, and there are opportunities here for them, but just like I said, highlighting that. That sense of purpose and that sense of belonging and that Maine is waiting for them here with open arms, I think is important.
[00:21:20] Eric Miller: It's amazing what a, a strong sense of place, especially a place like Maine and the guidance from a specific educator and how far that can go.
So in a Amanda Rector's 2020 article, "Maine's Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy" she wrote about the possible benefits of Covid-19 for the state of Maine's demographics with the following passage: "We have had a massive real-time experiment in telework, and for many people in businesses, this has been a success. If people can live anywhere and connect to their jobs remotely, why not live in Maine? Those rural parts of the state that may have seemed too far for some people in the not too distant past suddenly hold new attraction." How do you both feel about this statement?
[00:22:04] Michael Delorge: Yeah, I think that, I think that telework has definitely shown people outside of the state that they can move to Maine.
I know firsthand folks who do telework in rural Maine, we have a problem with wifi and broadband here in the state of Maine, which I think the legislature is slowly improving and addressing. I don't know that, like my thoughts on this are fully fleshed out. I do know that I like the idea of people moving to Maine year round and committing to the state of Maine.
I, after you had emailed us, Eric, to set this up, I just happened to come upon an article in the Bangor Daily News from I think February or something like that, that had to do with rebranding the state from Vacationland to something different because the moniker, the name Vacationland implies low commitment to the state.
You can come when you want and you can leave when you want. And just use what we have and then you can leave when you're done your vacation, which is a silly way to think about it. But I think that telework and the ability to work wherever you are bridges the gap between what Maine has and its natural beauty in like the best of both worlds with what we have to provide people this great livelihood and way of life.
This, the way life should be. But I'm interested to hear what Everett has to say on this. I, like I said, I don't really know that my thoughts on it are fully fleshed out yet.
[00:23:36] Everett Beals: Yeah. This is a tough one.
[00:23:37] Michael Delorge: Yeah.
[00:23:38] Everett Beals: Amanda Rector wrote this as we did in 2020, and like the workforce itself has changed a lot. And part of her, I think the reason maybe that she wrote that is that it's trying to just predict what might happen with Maine and the entire world was in this really uncertain state. In terms of the way that remote work is going, I can't say I have much experience with it myself.
But I am curious specifically, not that it's a zero sum game, about like the amount of like economic productivity and square-scare quotes that brings to the state. Not that like things end at the political borders of the state, but if someone anecdotally, and I don't know if this is true, but people in Facebook comments on Portland Press Herald articles are like, oh, all these people are moving to Bedford or Portland and they're still working in another state.
So like what's the benefit for the state of Maine other than the money they're now spending here? I think that, to me is also too pessimistic and we gain a lot from having new knowledge into the state and just we need more people who are actively participating and the municipalities that we have and in our local economies.
Something I alluded to, I guess in my essay was that I was thinking about like transit time to get to work, like commute time. And that's a problem in faster the state if you don't have a car. So like it's really great if people are moving, especially to rural towns and energizing like local Main streets.
But if the state isn't building the infrastructure for that, or especially to build more affordable housing or just more housing in general to increase the stock that we have. Then to me, a lot of people moving in can be something. I can imagine it being something that might be anxiety inducing for some maybe older people in the workforce.
It's a good thing, maybe in net, but I'm, I really can't forecast what exactly it means. So that would be like one concern of mine is, I think like in general, the state should be building a lot more housing. I'm really encouraged actually by speaker Talbot Ross proposing LD 2 recently. Which would basically tackle a statewide houselessness problem by doing housing first statewide, which would a fantastic initiative in my opinion.
So that's a long-winded answer to an admittedly challenging question. But that's how I would approach it.
[00:25:54] Eric Miller: Yeah. Thank you for entertaining that, that question for us. And because it's, forecasting is, and speculating is largely for the talking heads on whatever channel you'd like to check out.
And it is extremely difficult to predict the trade-offs with just a dynamic economy and just public health circumstance that was induced by Covid. And so yeah, it was, I heard many as living in Bangor, many anecdotes of people moving to either Bangor or further north who are very much urbanites in the New York, Massachusetts area and buying up in Aosta County.
And it's a conversation in my work that we have quite frequently with the Policy Center about community resilience, emergency response times, and whether it's firefighters or ambulance or what have you. Some of those places are pretty darn rural, and especially if you're coming from a extremely urban setting your expectations of the, of those services may not align with reality at the moment. And that speaks to the infrastructure point that you made Everett. So since you both experienced the Maine education system in, across the state, so in, in Maine, what's something that you felt was potentially missing from your respective experiences and what motivated you to submit your essays?
Everett, we'll start with you.
[00:27:20] Everett Beals: Yeah. So I, I'm a graduate of Kennebunk High School. I really enjoyed my time there. As I said, I had some great mentors, some great teachers like Lisa Ferrell and also Ms. Moy, who I got a lot of my history background from and who encouraged me to be a good writer. And the, I don't know how many shout outs I should give. I wasn't planning on it, but the person who encouraged me to submit this essay was Ms. Carlson, who's an English teacher at KHS. I was motivated by it because quite frankly, like I, scholarships are really important to me. And college affordability I think is something that Michael and I both wrote about actually in our essays.
So like I, this to me was really personal to try and just help. I wanted to contribute to the literature. I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and try my best to try and address that question as a, as an academic challenge. And I guess since this is from the Policy Review Center, as a civic participation thing.
But also like I used the scholarship to pay for the computer I'm doing this Zoom on. So for me it was like, it was personally important to try my best to try and make my education affordable. So in terms of answering the first part of your question about the educational system, another thing Michael and I both wrote about and he did a great job explaining earlier about like vocational programs.
That was something I concurred with and that I think the state needs a lot more of them. Something that I thought, what really excited me recently was it didn't apply for everyone, but for several graduating years, I wanna say at least three or four community college in the state of Maine is tuition free.
I know that has had cascading benefits, especially in the larger University of Maine system and with potential budget shortfalls at Orono. Stuff that I don't think I fully understand, but on the net, like making education more accessible for everyone in the state of Maine and more attractive to people outside of Maine I think is really good.
That was something that would've encouraged me to stay at the University of Maine system or to try and invest more my time in it is if it was more affordable at the time I was applying. So I felt like I got a lot outta my high school experience. There's a lot I really liked, and I can absolutely agree with what Michael was saying earlier about, friends and the vocational trades.
That's something that is really successful for a lot of main students and making sure that everyone has the same, nice facilities as are available, like in the next, most students in Kennebunk go over to Stanford. They have a brand new regional technical center that is really nice. I pretty sure in Bedford it's also like some really high quality facilities.
I wanna make sure that everyone in the state has access to that and not just here in York, Cumberland County. I think that my experience was pretty holistic, but I wanna try and acknowledge that a lot of other Maine students probably weren't as fortunate. So that's how I feel about that.
[00:30:02] Michael Delorge: Yeah, I definitely relate to that statement. I was really grateful for my education, but I know that there are others who didn't have the same education I had and the same opportunities. One thing I touch on in my essay is the legislature's obligation to that they made to the taxpayers. When the taxpayers in the state of Maine voted on a 2004 referendum, they voted in favor overwhelmingly in a 2004 referendum that the legislature would pay the majority of municipal school funds for public schools. I don't know what has happened since 2020, but I knew that from the time period where that referendum passed up until 2020 when I wrote my essay, the state had not met that obligation at all for a single year.
And what I think that leads to is a lot of in inequity in local school systems all around the state. So when I went to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics up north, I had friends from all these different school systems in Maine, from York to Fort Kent and everywhere in between rich towns, poor towns, rural towns, urban towns, everywhere.
And I got to meet a lot of these people and I got to learn about the state through them. But I also know that for a lot of my peers back at Bedford, they didn't have that same opportunity. And so one of the things that came to mind when you asked that question was just recognizing that Maine is a lot more diverse than your one town.
And I hope that we as a state can celebrate some of the, going back to our conversation from earlier, like we can celebrate some of the, at least geographic diversity in our state.
[00:31:52] Eric Miller: Yeah that's wonderful. Thank you both for submitting those essays. We really appreciate it. And so before we close out you have any final thoughts or comments that you would like to say as we close out here?
[00:32:05] Everett Beals: I guess one last thing I'll mention, just building off of the question you just asked about education. Is that the work is not done, obviously, and things are not back to normal after Covid. From a page of the Portland Press Herald on April 25th, the subheader was Maine kids are experiencing more poverty, homelessness, more poverty, homelessness, and mental health emergencies than before the pandemic, and high school graduation rates across the state are dropping. So clearly secondary education, primary education are all suffering statewide. I know this is a national problem, but I think in Maine we have a real resiliency problem with our public education. I think that was something Michael addressed really well in his original essay.
So just saying and recognizing, I come from a family of educators who are, have been involved in all kinds of different levels of public education. I just, I know and appreciate, think we all can, how hard that work is, and know that in the vast majority of Maine towns, our teachers are woefully underpaid, they are often struggling for better contracts, and our students deserve the best in the country, right? So there's a lot left to do and I don't have any one answer to, and I don't think any. But there's a lot of knowledge building that's going on thanks to the, this journal and thanks to just people like you guys at the University of Maine.
So thank you for the work you're doing.
[00:33:33] Eric Miller: You're very welcome. Michael, any closing thoughts?
[00:33:36] Michael Delorge: Yeah, ditto. Everett you're very well spoken. Everett and I, like I said, we grew up in a neighboring towns, grew up together. But we also met at this program called Youth in Government. And it's a YMCA program that meets annually on Veterans Day Weekend, where students from high schools all around the state of Maine get together and sit in the seats of their legislators at the State House and play model state. Basically where we write our own bills and we vote on our own bills, and we all assume the positions of our legislators in committee. And then both the House and Senate bodies. And that was the one experience I think in high school that I had, or I guess in my childhood, like before the age of 18, that really helped form my worldview and my thinking.
And I just, I'm very grateful for that program and wanted to mention it because I think it informed a lot of my goals for the future and a lot of my views in this essay that I wrote back in 2020. And it also ultimately was what led me to write the essay to even go for applying in the first place, and also led me to meet David Richards down at the Margaret Chase Smith Library, who was the one that encouraged me to apply.
So I hope that others can have similar kind of experiential learning opportunities that Everett and I had that helped teach us about our state, and, helped show us that there was a sense of purpose for them in Maine.
[00:35:13] Everett Beals: That's a really fun one to do.
[00:35:15] Michael Delorge: Yeah.
Those are two very excellent closeouts.
So you both are 21, right? 21, 22.
[00:35:22] Everett Beals: I'm 20, actually 20. I'm young for my class. My birthday's in August.
[00:35:25] Eric Miller: Okay. All right. And so I strongly dislike generational labels and especially like pessimism that goes along with placing generational labels. But it seems like there's a lot in the ether about Gen Z. ,And I'll have to say that you two provide a lot of hope, and we're very excited to keep tabs on your work going in the future. Whether it's your current studies or you choose to divert, we know that you'll land on your feet. And so thank you both so much for checking in with us and we look forward to keeping tabs with you.
[00:35:54] Everett Beals: Thanks for having us, Eric.
[00:35:54] Michael Delorge: Thanks Eric.
[00:35:59] Eric Miller: What you just heard was a synopsis of Amanda Rector's article, "Maine's Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce Economy and Policy", and an interview with Margaret Chase Smith Library's 2020 essay contest winners, Everett Beals and Michael Delorge. Maine Policy Review is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.
The editorial team for main policy review is made up of Joyce Rumery, Linda Silka, and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. A thank you to Jayson Heim and Kathryn Swacha, script writers for Maine Policy Matters, and to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant as mentioned at the beginning of the episode.
Our next episode will be coming out August 29th, 2023 to kick off season four of Maine Policy Matters. We would like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser.
If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform and stay updated on new episode releases. I'm Eric Miller. Thanks for listening and have a great summer.

Tuesday Apr 25, 2023

On this episode, we cover an article by Angela Daley, Prianka Sarker, Liam Siguad, Marcella Sorg, and Jamie Wren titled, “Drug-related Morbidity and Mortality in Maine: Lost Productivity from 2015-2020.” Daley is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Maine, Sarker and Wren are both research associates at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Sorg a forensic anthropologist, and Siguad a research assistant at the Mercatus Center in Arlington, VA who was a graduate student when this study was conducted. After briefly summarizing the article, we will speak with Dr. Sorg and Prianka Sarker about the opioid epidemic and how we go about quantifying some of the costs of the opioid epidemic.
This article was published in volume 31, issue 1, of Maine Policy Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to Daley et al.’s article , which can be found here:
[00:00:00] Eric Miller: Of the significant challenges today, few are as insidious as the opioid crisis, which has divided public discourse and devastated communities across the country. In this episode, we'll recap an article published in 2022, assessing the economic harm of lost labor productivity in Maine.
This is the Maine Policy Matters Podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I'm Eric Miller, research associate at the center. On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today we'll be covering an article by Angela Daley, Priyanka Sarker, Liam Siguad, Marcella Sorg and Jamie Wren titled, "Drug Related Morbidity and Mortality in Maine: Lost Productivity from 2015 to 2020". Daley is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Maine. Sarker and Wren are both research associates at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Sorg is a forensic anthropologist, and Siguad is a research assistant at the Mercatus Center in Arlington, Virginia, who was a graduate student at the time the study was conducted. After briefly summarizing the article, we will speak with Dr. Sorg and Priyanka Sarker about the opioid epidemic and how we go about quantifying some of the costs of the opioid epidemic.
This article is published in Volume 31, issue 1 of Maine Policy Review, a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to Daley et al.'s article, which can be found in the episode description.
The increase of prevalence of overdose deaths has been a devastating phenomenon since the pharmaceutical opioids, namely Oxycontin, kicked off an epidemic that has evolved and worsened since the late 1990's. In addition to the heartbreaking losses, there have been significant economic impacts as well, with Maine ranking among the highest in the nation for per capita overdose death rate as of recent years.
The emotional toll on individuals, families, and communities is far reaching, leading to poor physical and mental health, reduced quality of life, lost productivity, increased accidents and crime, and higher social welfare and healthcare costs. The economic impact is staggering, estimated at just over 1 trillion in 2017 for the United States and 6.8 billion in 2017 for Maine alone. In this paper, Daley et al. use a human capital approach to estimate loss productivity from drug related morbidity and mortality in Maine. This approach measures the lost value to society that occurs when individuals cannot fully contribute to market and non-market activities. For example, individuals may be less likely to participate in the labor market, or they may be less productive due to absenteeism, problems with concentration and memory, impaired judgment or interpersonal challenges. This loss of productivity negatively affects their earnings as well as their productivity of their employers and the economy as a whole. Of course, drug related morbidity and mortality also affect non-market activities, such as household work, caregiving, and volunteering.
There are a lot of statistics and figures published in this piece, so we recommend giving the original article a read if you're interested in learning more, but we'll cover some of the major takeaways.
Also, it is important to note that the authors used all illicit drugs, not just opioids, for this analysis. This analysis found that drug related morbidity is lower among females. However, the prevalence of illicit drug use disorder has been increasing for both males and females from 2015 to 2019, and 18-25 year olds are the age group where the percentage of illicit drug use disorder is highest.
The annual loss productivity due to drug-related morbidity on market activities was greater than non-market activities for males, and the inverse is true for females. However, due to the higher prevalence of drug use among males led to higher non-market costs than female non-market costs. In 2019, $40 million in market activity and $62 million in non-market activity was lost among females and among males. $104 million in market activity and $64 million in non-market activity was lost. In total for 2019, approximately $144 million in market activity, and $126 million in non-market activity was lost in Maine due to drug-related morbidity.
Drug related deaths concentrated among individuals aged from 25-64, so there were many years of potential life lost. In fact, the authors found that among individuals aged from 25-54, account for more than 80% of years of loss productivity in 2020. Life loss productivity in 2020 for females was estimated to be valued at $170 million and $564 million for males yielding a total of about $734 million lost for Maine.
Those numbers may be large, but they're also emitting the reduction in quality of life as well as the value of life. Some estimates that include methods of valuing life lost yield much higher economic costs. All of these approaches to understanding the entire societal effect of the overdose epidemic are helping to inform program and policy decisions that aim to address this crisis.
And now onto our conversation with Dr. Marcy Sorg and Priyanka Sarker.
Thank you both for joining us today as this article covered drug related morbidity and mortality through 2020. While most everyone is aware that the fatal overdose epidemic has gotten worse, what is the current state of the opioid epidemic in Maine and what are some of the primary drivers lately?
[00:06:03] Marci Sorg: The opioid epidemic has really continued to challenge Maine in a lot of ways. I can mention several primary drivers, at least from my perspective, and they're all really interrelated. First there's already a large population in Maine that is experiencing addiction to opioids and that population. And it's probably more than 8% of the population of Maine. It potentially grows whenever new users are persuaded to try opioids. And it potentially decreases when people transition from using drugs to long-term recovery or if they pass away.
And secondly, drug trafficking is an international problem with influences beyond Maine, beyond our borders, and it's generally out of reach of Maine's policies. Yet it's affecting Maine's epidemic every day.
The third thing I could mention is the particular drugs that are trafficked during the last seven or eight years. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has been the most influential of the drugs. Fentanyl is a really rapid acting opioid, and it's a lot stronger and more potentially lethal than other opioids that were common in the past. And it causes approximately 80% of Maine's drug deaths, although, most of those drug deaths have more than one drug. So fentanyl's just one of usually three or four.
The fourth thing that I mentioned, and there are five things altogether is the access to appropriate treatment modalities. And that includes not only the medications like Suboxone and methadone, but also and very important inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and peer support programs.
Maine's been working pretty hard to increase treatment resources. The fifth thing is stigma. Addiction is still mostly hidden from public view not only from the public at large, but healthcare providers and even users themselves engage in stigmatizing behaviors. It creates barriers to treatment, barriers to problem solving, and it's a strong barrier to asking for help. Many of the persons who die from overdose are using alone. We believe partly due to stigma. And there may be no one who notices they have overdosed until it's too late to reverse the overdose. So these are five things that I think are main drivers of the problem in Maine today.
[00:09:10] Eric Miller: Thank you Marci. And as a data researcher on this team myself, it's really hard to parse exactly how much influence each of those drivers have. And as it is a data scarce problem we can just try to get whatever insights we can. And so, especially since the, in the Covid 19 pandemic coming in 2020, that was hypothesized to be linked toward deaths.
But it's even really hard to parse out on the data end how much influence Covid-19 has had on fatal overdoses. We just know that it came along with more illicit supply and other such factors and increased housing costs and what have you. The Covid-19 rise in fatal overdoses. How does Maine seem to compare to other states?
[00:10:01] Marci Sorg: After Covid-19 was over there's still a residual effect that's pretty important. I think it's important to also, to mention that the deaths from drug overdoses, they're a national problem, not just a Maine problem. And it takes up to two years for the state data to filter up to the federal data and be shown in drug rates and overdose rates and so forth.
And, so it takes two years before we can get numbers that'll allow us to compare one state to another, and that's a pretty important thing. Right now, we're in 2023. We are dealing with 2021 data. We have some preliminary data from 22, but mostly it's 2021. So that is still sort of within the pandemic.
What happens at the federal level when the state data come up is that they get normalized so that the state age structures, for example, are weighted so that they can be compared. So the federal CDC has reported that the US age adjusted drug overdose death rate was 32.4 deaths per a hundred thousand population.
That's for the country as a whole. The highest rates were in West Virginia and they had 90, Columbia had 63.6 now. So that's the range for the highest. Maine's rate in 2021 was 46. For all drugs, that is, not just opioids. It we were number seven in the country for all drugs. If you look just at opioids, we rank at 41.4 deaths per hundred thousand, and that's number five in the country.
So it's pretty high. For comparison, Vermont, both Vermont and New Hampshire are less than Maine. Maine's, vermont was 39.4 and New Hampshire was 30.7. So they're a little bit lower than Maine, the lowest in the country. By the way, we're in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa, which were 11 and 13 and 15 respectively.
So that's a lot lower than these other states, including us. Provisional data for 2022 at least, from our perspective as in collecting those data, it suggests that 2022 increase was about 10%.
[00:12:42] Eric Miller: Very interesting. It's so hard to, or so fascinating rather, to assess these regional trends and how various populations are affected by different substances more so than others. Because the plain states that have a lower rate of opioid age adjusted rate fatal overdoses, have other substance uses that are more dominant in, in those areas. Not the, to the extent is not necessarily the same across all states and substance epidemic type of course, but it's, it is something that is, is kind of curious in the public health researcher perspective. And so this. Huge impact, of course, has the human cost. And one difficult thing is assessing and quite often controversial and highly debated thing, is assessing the economic impact of the opioid crisis.
And while there's several different ways to do it we'll focus on the one that was discussed in the article that was published in Maine Policy Review, and that is years of Potential Life Lost. So, Priyanka, would you mind explaining the concept of years of potential life lost and how it factors into the calculation of economic cost in this paper?
[00:13:58] Prianka Sarker: Yes, of course. So the concept of years of potential life lost means the years lost due to premature mortality. In other words, when a person dies before an expected normal age, then the gap we have between their age at death and the age that they would have otherwise lived. It's called the potential years lost.
We have different life expectancy for both males and females based on the age groups and we usually expect people to leave approximately up to that age. For example, if say there is a 40 year old person, we would normally expect them to live, say another 40 years. Now if they die from an avoidable cause like drug overdose today, then we would be losing those 40 years.
So for example, if we have 10 people from that age group dying from overdoses today, then we would have a total of 400 years of potential life lost. Now in our paper, we attempt to calculate the productivity loss that is associated with these years of potential life lost. We tried to measure the value of productivity that would have been possible to achieve, if we could have avoided this drug related deaths that occurred during the study period in the state of Maine. So as long as a person is alive and they're active, they're contributing to the economy in various ways, like by working in the labor market, doing household shores, taking care of children, or by volunteering.
So when people die prematurely from drug overdoses, we lose several productive years from their lives. In our paper, we calculate the annual as well as the total lifetime value of these productive years for each person. And once we have an estimate for each person, multiplying that by number of debts, then give us a sense of how much productivity losses are occurring in the state due to this premature deaths.
[00:16:15] Eric Miller: For those of you who would like some more nitty gritty details, you're more welcome to reference the paper. But that was a great overview of how you all came to those numbers in the paper. So this essay specifically will be included in a larger cost report that I'm actually leading the charge on.
There are several previous iterations of this cost report dating back to 2000. So there's one published in 2000, 2005 and 2010. And then we'll be publishing an update that includes 2020 in the near future. Due to the changes in the, and waves in the opioid epidemic is it safe to expect that the economic cost to be increasing.
[00:16:59] Prianka Sarker: I think it's fairly safe to expect higher economic costs in the upcoming report. As you have said that the current analysis that we have in our paper will form a portion of the last larger cost report, which is under preparation. One reason I reiterate that is in our paper, we only consider the cost from lost productivity.
There are many other costs associated with substance use disorder, such as treatment costs, reduced quality of life, incarceration, social welfare, and such other costs, and as you say, those will be covered in the larger report. So in our paper, even though we focused only on the productivity aspect, still, the numbers are high compared to productivity losses that were calculated in the earlier version of the reports.
The last iteration of the cost report from Maine, which you mentioned in 2010. So that estimated the cost around 1.4 billion. And in 2017, a report which was based on the entire USA. And that focused only on the cost of opioids alone, estimated the cost for Maine to be around 6.8 billion. So just looking at the trends, I think, yes, it's pretty safe to expect the numbers to be quite high in the upcoming report compared to the earlier ones.
[00:18:26] Eric Miller: Yeah, it's incredible what's been happening. And tragic, of course. The larger cost report will also include alcohol, which I think will, which people will find surprising, the degree of alcohol, use related disorders and mortality. And how the magnitude of effect economic costs that has as well.
Because more people die due to alcohol related disorders than opioid. But it's really difficult to capture all of the alcohol related deaths because if someone dies of old age but was an alcoholic, then it's considered a natural death. So, we are undercounting in our analysis, but we kind of have to recognize that and state that in our assessment.
So we have addressed the, increased economic cost of lives lost. What are some measures being implemented to address the crisis, and what are some significant barriers we face as public health researchers?
[00:19:26] Marci Sorg: I guess I can answer that. Maine has really been working very hard to address the crisis for a while, and to make those actions visible to the public.
And that's done on, a website where all the data are kept and updated all the time. I'll mention just a few things. One of the most important areas has been the increase in distribution of overdose reversal drug, naloxone, or it's sometimes called Narcan, that's the trade name.
Naloxone is used by both law enforcement and the emergency system. Both EMS and the emergency room use it as well as community members. They use it to reverse overdoses. If the person's still found, they are still alive, and the state has distributed hundreds of thousands of doses over the last seven years.
So we, we do publish the absolute numbers of the distribution on the Maine drug website. The second thing I'll mention is improving access to care in rural areas. The development of the options program, and that acronym stands for Overdose Prevention through intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety.
And that program has increased the pathways to recovery and treatment. It uses what's called a non-responder model. Options liaisons are people that are hired in each county to respond to overdoses talk to the person who survives an overdose, and provide referrals to resources and referrals to treatment, depending on the needs of that person
That program has recently been expanded quite a bit. The third thing I'll mention is treatment. And people need treatment not only to have it, but to have it close to where they live and work. Unfortunately though and part of this is due to Covid pandemic, there's been a real labor shortage in healthcare and it's slowed the expansion of treatment programs.
However, these, the numbers of treatment programs have been increasing in the state.
[00:21:51] Eric Miller: Thank you for plugging Maine Drug Data Hub. We'll have a link to that in the description of this episode as well. You can find all sorts of data and reports if you would like to learn more. This upcoming question wouldn't have been mentioned if it wasn't making headlines in the past couple months.
But the FDA recently made Naloxone or Narcan a product that could be acquired over the counter. There's been a lot of speculation of how this could help deter overdose deaths. But we, it's really difficult to completely understand. And so some, we're going to ask our guests to do some friendly speculating as to what exactly that change in the rule from the FDA will, how that will affect the overdose crisis.
[00:22:36] Marci Sorg: Yeah, I've got a couple comments here. Apparently this over-the- counter Naloxone will not be rolled out until the summertime. So it's not happening right now yet. In order to get over-the-counter Naloxone, the customer is still going to have to pay for it at the pharmacy. And so that price range that will be charged is not yet known.
It's also not known if they're going, the, if Naloxone's going to be offered in all of the pharmacies or how much of it's going to be available? Unfortunately we think that the presence of stigma, which is still very much present in our communities, may still keep people from asking for it at their pharmacies.
And also we think that the price may be a deterrent, particularly for low income folks. Maine's program of state funded Naloxone is likely to continue in the next little while, even after the over-the-counter Naloxone is available and it's going to be a pretty important source for people who can't afford to buy it.
This program, it's called the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative, MNDI, it provides Naloxone at no cost to a group of four tier one distributor organizations who then distribute it to a wide range of tier two organizations and individuals. Anyone who is in need of reversing overdoses regularly or maybe just needs to have it on hand.
[00:24:18] Eric Miller: Thank you so much for indulging in some speculation there. It's of course, it's very difficult for us in this field to assess what is happening in data that's in, or the present day, what's in front of us, let alone projecting into the future, and especially with a massive real change like this.
So we've covered quite a bit of ground here in the, just touching the opioid crisis as a whole, as well as some of the economic factors. But are there some other things regarding this subject that you all would like to share that we haven't already covered?
[00:24:51] Marci Sorg: I guess it's important to just say that Maine's working really hard to understand the issues that are faced by people living with substance use disorder.
And we're focused on opportunities for, intervention and effective resources. We're looking much more at people who survive overdoses and at non-fatal overdose events. We've increased the availability of public data as we've mentioned already today. Maine also provides a monthly overdose report, and I wanted to mention that.
And that report has statistics just from the previous month that, it uses suspected overdoses. Some of those cases haven't been confirmed, but we have a pretty good idea how many of them are going to turn into confirmed overdoses. Those data are provisional and they change slightly. But we now have a pretty timely idea of the overdose trends on a monthly basis.
And it includes not only the fatal overdoses, but the non-fatal overdoses that are reported to us by the Naloxone distributors by the EMS, by the emergency room, and all of these events. Fatal and non-fatal add up to big numbers which shows us the real size of the problem. Finally, I will mention that I think the discussions about overdose and substance use disorder are much more likely these days to be taking place in public spaces. And that suggests to us that stigma has been declining. In the broader community, and I think that's a very meaningful change.
[00:26:45] Eric Miller: I strongly agree. Thank you both so much for joining us today and shed some light on and update the paper that was published recently in Maine Policy Review.
What you just heard was Dr. Marcella Sorg and Priyanka Sarker's discussion of their article, "Drug-related Morbidity and Mortality in Maine: Lost Productivity from 2015 to 2020," and the current state of the opioid epidemic. Maine Policy Review is a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.
The editorial team for Maine Policy Review is made up of Joyce Rumery, Linda Silka, and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. A thank you to Jayson Heim and Katherine Swacha, script writers for Maine Policy Matters, and to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant.
In two weeks, we'll be discussing changing demographics in Maine and how attractive Maine is to young people.
We'd like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margeret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser. If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform to stay updated on new episode releases.
I'm Eric Miller. Thanks for listening and please join us next time on Maine Policy Matters.

Tuesday Apr 11, 2023

In this episode, we cover an article by Richard Barringer, Lee Schepps, Tomas Urquhart, and Martin Wilk titled “Maine’s Public Reserved Lands: A Tale of Loss and Recovery”. The authors tell us a story of Maine’s public reserved lots and its history to show how efforts to maintain these lots have preserved Maine’s natural heritage. This article was published in volume 29, number 2, of Maine Policy Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to Barringer et al.’s article , which can be found here:
[00:00:00] Eric Miller: To preserve the crown jewels of Maine's heritage, tune into today's episode to learn about Maine's consolidated public lots and how they can remain for public use and enjoyment as long as they are valued, accessed, and safeguarded from harm.
[00:00:22] This is the Maine Policy Matters Podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I'm Eric Miller, research associate at the Center.
[00:00:30] On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today we'll be covering an article by Richard Barringer, Lee Schepps, Tomas Urquhart, and Martin Wilk titled "Maine's Public Reserved Lands: A Tale of Loss and Recovery."
[00:00:47] Richard Barringer is author and editor of numerous books, reports and landmark Maine laws in the areas of land use and conservation education, the environment, energy, sustainable development, and tax policy. Lee Schepps represented the state of Maine in the public lots matter, both in the litigation and as the second director of the Bureau of Public Lands. Thomas Urquhart was formerly executive director of the Maine Audubon Society, where forest practices and the opportunities offered by Maine's North Woods were among his top priorities. Martin Wilk represented the state of Maine in the public lots litigation and in the settlement negotiations that followed the Maine Supreme Court's decision in the state's favor.
[00:01:31] The authors tell us a story of Maine's public reserved lots and its. History to show how efforts to maintain these lots has preserved Maine's natural heritage. This article was published in Volume 29, number 2 of Maine Policy Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to Barringer et al.'s article, which can be found in the episode description.
[00:01:58] In 1820, when Maine separated from Massachusetts, it acquired a public domain of 10 to 12 million acres, which was later reduced to 8 million acres. The Maine Constitution required the state to reserve four lots of 320 acres each in any newly organized township. Later, the formula was changed to a single, 1,000 acre lot in each new township for "public use." The legislature authorized the state land agent to sell the "right to cut and carry away the timber and grass" from the public lots in 1850. In 1874, the legislature tried to terminate the Office of Land Agent, but it did not have the power to do so, and the office was eventually abolished in the 1920s. Responsibility for the public lots passed to the Maine Forest Service in 1891. By the early 1970s, the Maine state government had undergone significant changes. In 1972, there were concerns about the state's stewardship of the public lots, and the Attorney General looked into the legal issues surrounding ownership and responsibility for them.
[00:03:08] Schepps researched the history of public land reservations, timber trespass, and forestry practices in Massachusetts and Maine. He found that professional forest management was not a concept in the early and mid-1800s, and that it only came into practice through early forestry pioneers such as Gifford Pinchot. Schepps also looked into the legal disputes involving the word "timber" and argued that if the original deeds only granted the right to cut and carry away the existing timber, the duration of that right could not expand its substance. Schepps submitted his report to the Attorney General, but it was not released to the public. However, due to the relentless reporting of Bob Cummings, the issue became highly publicized and politically charged in Maine.
[00:03:58] In 1973, Jon Lund became attorney general of Maine and released the Schepps report, which argued that the right to cut timber on public reserve lands only applied to the standing timber at the time of sale, not subsequent growth. The report also stated that the state had legal rights of use and access to public lots that had not been located on the ground. The legislature created a joint select committee to investigate the matter and pass legislation to terminate timber rights on public lots, leading to a lawsuit by paper companies and landowner seeking adjudication of their rights. They argued that the state's persistent and long-standing course of conduct barred from asserting rights it may have once have had. The state counter-claimed, stating that the timber cutting rights had expired because the timber in existence at the time of the conveyance had long since been cut. The lawsuit was then used politically to delay consideration of the grand plantation legislation that would terminate cutting rights.
[00:04:59] Then the Maine legislature created a Bureau of Public Lands, to manage the state's interests in public lands. However, the agency had no staff or direction, and its mission was unclear. In 1974, the Maine Forest Service Director assigned a desk, a vehicle, a forester, and a forest ranger to the Bureau of Public Lands.
[00:05:19] The Bureau of Public Lands led by Richard Barringer, surveyed public lands and proposed a grand plantation, but public sentiment was lukewarm. However, in June of that year, the president of the Great Northern Paper Company, Robert Hellendale, approached Governor Curtis to suggest a negotiated settlement to the disputed public lots. Over the summer and fall, Barringer and Helendale negotiated an agreement to consolidate the 60,000 scattered public lots into a small number of high value places that Great Northern Paper Company owned outright. In December, 1974, governor Curtis and Helendale signed the agreement which violated a long established behavioral norm among paper companies and large private landowners. However, Helen's action broke the political log jam, and over the next five years, all but one of the paper companies engaged in similar exchanges with the Bureau of Public Lands.
[00:06:14] In November, 1974, Attorney General Erwin ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for Governor against Democrat George Mitchell and independent James Longley in the wake of the Watergate scandal and President Nixon's resignation in August, 1974, Longley won a surprising victory among Maine voters.
[00:06:33] In 1975, shortly after the Great Northern Paper Company trade was consummated, Barringer was nominated by Governor Longley to become commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation. Schepps subsequently became director of the Bureau of Public Lands; John Walker, director of the Maine Forest Service; and Herb Hartman, director of the Bureau of Parks and Recreation. Together, the four agreed on a strategy for dealing with the claims of the remaining paper companies and private landowners.
[00:07:03] Using the same value-for-value approach and selection criteria as used with the Great Northern Paper Company, Schepps and his staff evaluated and proposed lands for consolidation, negotiated trade deals with paper companies, and sought approval from the legislature to add another dozen consolidated parcels to the Bureau of Public Lands land-holdings. In each exchange, landowners claimed to be donating the timber rights on the public lots and took tax deductions. Subject to the outcome of the Cushing v. Lund litigation. The Bureau of Public Lands grew as forest operations and other management activities expanded to hundreds of thousands of acres of newly consolidated units.
[00:07:43] Schepps shared information about lands he believed might best be acquired with Barringer, Walker and Hartman for their consideration and approval. Schepps then negotiated a trade based on tax-value for tax-value, without separate appraisals. The state accepted no discount to the value of its own lands because they were scattered, largely inaccessible, and in many cases small minority interests not located on the ground. The private landowners in each case received a release of any liability for timber trespass. In the past, if the state were to prevail in the litigation and claim tax deductions for the assessed value of their timber rights, if the state were to lose the litigation. Each of the trades thus negotiated were consummated after the proposed contract was approved by resolve of the legislature.
[00:08:34] Meanwhile, back in the courts, the lawsuit which spanned 125 years and involved voluminous documentary evidence, was assigned to a retired Supreme Court Justice Donald Webber, who considered two main concerns. One, whether the cutting rights related only to timber in existence at the time they were conveyed, and two, whether the cutting rights were limited to certain sizes and species of trees considered timber at the time. The two issues were presented to Justice Webber based on a Stipulated Record of over 1,000 pages and more than 250 exhibits. Two days after evidentiary hearings were held during which the state presented as its lead witness, University of Maine, Professor David C. Smith, on the contemporaneous meaning of the term timber in the timber and grass deeds.
[00:09:22] After evidentiary healing hearings and presentation of expert testimony, the referee ruled in favor of the private landowners stating that the cutting rights included all standing timber in existence at the time they were sold, as well as timber growing on the land thereafter. The state appealed the judgment. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the state, stating that the cutting rights related only to the timber in existence at the time the rights were conveyed and that these rights had been exhausted.
[00:09:51] The court did not address the party's subsequent conduct or the effect it may have under various legal doctrines. The private landowners had continued to harvest timber on the public lots until the present, which the state claimed were unauthorized and entitled to it to damages for the value of all such timber. The court left it to the state to determine how to proceed with a final settlement given the potential damages were substantial. The court also recognized the special status of the state as a trustee of the public lots stating that it held title to them in its sovereign capacity.
[00:10:26] In the 1980s, there was a legal battle in Maine between the state government and private landowners over the control of millions of acres of forest land. The state believed that these private landowners had harvested timber from state-owned land without authorization, resulting in significant economic losses to the state. The landowners resisted the state's proposals for land exchanges and were initially united in their opposition.
[00:10:50] The state government, however, came up with a comprehensive proposal to resolve the issue which it presented to the private landowners at a meeting called by Governor Joseph Brennan. The proposal involved consolidating public lots to compensate for the timber value lost over the past six decades of company harvesting. The landowners were shocked and angry and left the meeting without reaching an agreement.
[00:11:13] For the next three years, the state government negotiated with the private landowners to settle all outstanding issues. Initially, little progress was made as both sides refused to budge from their positions. Then, in a surprise move, Seven Islands Land company on behalf of the heirs of David Pingree, broke from the other private landowners and entered an into negotiations directly with the state. The Pingree settlement became the standard for all future settlements, and the other private land owners began to rethink their opposition to the state's proposals.
[00:11:44] The state government focused its efforts on landowners who were most amenable to settlement and deferred discussion with those who were most reluctant. The one at a time negotiating strategy proved effective, and all of the remaining landowners eventually came to the table and entered into mutually agreeable land exchanges. The state government claimed damages of approximately $50 million for unauthorized cutting since the 1920s, which accrued added value to the state, in addition to the value of the extraordinary lands acquired. During the eight years of litigation before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rendered its historic decision in favor of the state, the land holdings in Bureau of Public Lands unchallenged jurisdiction increased from 50,000 to 600,000 acres. Meanwhile, the state government drafted two far-reaching Maine laws to improve the management of public lots according to the principles of multi-use, and to create the nonlapsing revenue account for their improvement in public access and use. These laws have stood the test of time and have been used as models by other states in their management of large blocks of multi-use land.
[00:12:51] In 1972, there was this dispute between the Baxter State Park Authority and the Great Northern Paper Company, over the latter's rights to residual cutting in one of the two scientific management townships located in the north end of the park, which had been acquired by Governor Baxter in 1962. The controversy was based on the application of the multiple use concept and law that guided the management of federal lands by the US Forest Service, particularly the provisions of the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of June 1960.
[00:13:26] The multiple-use concept in law prescribed that public lands should be managed in a way that ensures their sustained use for various purposes, such as recreation grazing, timber harvesting, wildlife habitat, and water conservation. This approach aims to balance the needs of different user groups and ensure that the resources are not overexploited or degraded.
[00:13:50] Schepps, who was the assistant attorney general at the time, was familiar with the federal multiple-use mandate and used it as a framework to build a case against Great Northern Paper Company's harvesting techniques in the township. The case aimed to limit the Great Northern Paper Company's cutting rights in line with the principles of scientific forest management, which entails managing the forest for long-term productivity, ecological health, and multiple benefits.
[00:14:16] In Maine, the multiple-use mandate for managing public reserve lands is based on the Federal Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of June 1960. This law requires that all renewable resources on federal land, such as timber, water range, and recreation, be managed in a way that ensures their sustained yield or maximum use without degrading the environment.
[00:14:36] Overall, Schepps used the federal multiple-use concept and law as a precedent to establish the principles of scientific forest management and the sustainable use of natural resources in the Baxter State Park controversy. This approach helped resolve the dispute between the state and the Great Northern Paper Company and laid the groundwork for future management of public lands in Maine and elsewhere.
[00:14:59] In 1974, Schepps wrote, "Maine's Public Lots: The Emergence of a Public Trust." In it, he stated that no precise legal definition of what constitutes a public trust and different examples can exist along a spectrum At one extreme, large public domains inherited by states such as Maine can be considered assets of the state similar to surplus land or the balance in a state's bank account, the state acts as proprietor and has full power over their disposition and use. At the other end of the spectrum, there are public trusts such as Baxter State Park in Maine, where the state is just the nominal owner for the benefit of the general public and the judicial branch of the government has large powers with respect to the use and disposition of such public trust assets.
[00:15:48] Under US law, courts enforce and protect the beneficiaries of trust. For example, the US Supreme Court has held that submerged lands in Lake Michigan are not merely public domain, but constitute a public trust. Maine's public reserve lands, which are explicitly required to be reserved by the Maine Constitution, appear to enjoy special and restricted status and their use and protection for the people of Maine ultimately and properly reside with the judicial branch of the state government. Schepps brought attention to the fact that if the legislative or executive branch of Maine state government decides to use the public reserve lands for a purpose that strays from the existing authorized use, the judicial branch may be willing to assert its traditional power with respect to public trusts.
[00:16:34] Maine's success in implementing environmental protection policies in the face of strong opposition from the state's powerful lumber and power interests, interests that had outsized influence over economic affairs relative to most every other state was due to a rare alignment of factors, including a free press, sustained leadership, support from the legislature and judiciary, talented staff, strong analysis, good teamwork, skillful negotiation, calculated risk taking, devotion to the task, good timing, good luck, and personal courage. The issue was made public by persistent private citizens and intrepid reporters, and the presidents of two private companies broke the tradition to support the effort.
[00:17:16] Environmental consciousness was growing in Maine and the nation, and the right people came together to meet the challenge with an abiding belief in the public interest, government as an instrument of the public good and unceasing teamwork as the vehicle of high accomplishment. The passage concludes with quotes from retired landowners who now accept and feel satisfied with the policy changes.
[00:17:38] And what of the landowners today, some 40 years later? In the afterward of his forthcoming book, Thomas Urquhart writes, "With the passage of time, much of the bitterness around the struggle has termed to acceptance, even a feeling of satisfaction." Urquhart quotes Brad Wellman, retired president of Pingree Associates: "Take away all of the resentment and whatnot, I think the result has been good for both the landowners and the State." And Roger Milliken, president of Baskahegan Company, stated that "the dominant-use policy [was] farsighted, an example of Maine leading, and ecological reserves never would've happened otherwise."
[00:18:24] Timber harvesting-related controversy began once again in 2011 when Doug Denico, a corporate forest manager, appointed by Governor Paul LePage, proposed a more intensive commercial approach to timber management in the public lots. Denico ordered a 61% increase in harvesting without consultation with the bureau or public comment. This led to a years-long encounter between the Maine Forest Service and the Bureau of Public Lands, as well as between the executive and legislative branches of Maine government over management of the public lots and access to the public reserved lands trust fund for non-trust purposes.
[00:19:01] The governor's office proposed using the trust fund to pay for a cash rebate from the state to replace old, inefficient home-heating furnaces with energy efficient wood pellet boilers. The trust fund had pre been previously used for an unrelated purpose in 1992, but authorizing legislation from the government for the MPFA proposal, LD 1468 was voted down by the legislature.
[00:19:28] Governor LePage won a second term in 2014 and proposed cutting more timber on the public reserved lands to prepare for potentially devastating spruce budworm outbreak in the Maine woods. However, Robert Seymour, a longstanding member of the Bureau of Public Lands Silvicultural Advisory Committee, called the governor's rationale an unnecessary scare tactic to secure more revenue from the public lots, for a favored public response. In response, LePage proposed splitting the Bureau of Parks and Lands between a new Bureau of Conservation, and the Maine Forest Service.
[00:20:04] In 2015, the state of Maine considered changes to its management of public reserve lands, which are protected by a constitutionally mandated trust. Governor Paul LePage proposed increasing the annual timber harvest from 141,500 cords to 180,000 cords to generate additional revenue for the state, but opponents argued that this would threaten the long-term sustainability of the forests and violate the terms of the trust. A special commission was established to study the issue and ultimately recommended maintaining the existing allowable cut, conducting regular forest inventories, and providing oversight by the legislature.
[00:20:45] The historic importance of this commission's deliberations was underscored in a letter dated September 23rd, 2015, signed by five former conservation commissioners- Richard Barringer, Richard Anderson, Ronald Lovaglio, Edward Meadows, and Patrick McGowan. On October 26th, 2015, then-Attorney General Janet Mills sent a written opinion regarding the legal risks of rating a constitutionally protected trust fund. A definitive answer would have to come from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court she argued, but based on the 1992 case, the governor's proposal "would likely meet great skepticism." Further, public reserved land dollars spent on state parks would replace general fund monies effectively making trust money interchangeable with general fund revenue, which is not permitted."
[00:21:36] The special commission released its unanimous report with recommendations in December, 2015. Mindful of the attorney general's warning, it did not include money for Efficiency Maine among its recommendations. The Bureau of Public Lands should maintain a cash operating account of $2.5 million a year against unexpected costs; a forest inventory should be undertaken the next year and every five years thereafter, and Bureau of Public Lands Foresters should make decisions on harvest levels, subject to ACF Committee oversight by the legislature.
[00:22:09] Governor LePage attacked the commission and its report as well as the bill that would implement its findings. The legislature passed LD 1629, however, and the governor promptly vetoed it. The legislature's vote to override his veto fell nine votes short. In 2016, Senator Saviello again presented a bill to implement the committee's recommendations, which passed, and again, the governor vetoed it. The Environmental Priorities Coalition, a partnership of 34 Environmental Conservation and public health groups, took up the battle this time and the legislature succeeded in overriding the Governor's veto.
[00:22:46] These possibilities would have to wait, however, upon a new gubernatorial administration. In January 2019, Democrat Janet Mills succeeded Paul LePage to become Maine's first female governor. Amanda Beal, the new ACF Commissioner, previously led the Maine Farmland Trust's efforts to revitalize Maine's rural landscape. Andy Cutko, the new Bureau of Public Lands director, is an ecologist who has worked for the Maine Natural Areas Program and the Nature Conservancy. He comes to his position with a depth of knowledge about the public reserve lands, and well equipped to manage these natural treasures as they were intended for the people of Maine and our visitors, for their many and diverse values.
[00:23:29] Bill Patterson, the new deputy director of the Bureau of Public Lands, when the original article was published in Maine Policy Review, believes that an important challenge facing the agency is to increase public awareness and appreciation of these lands, "where they are, how and for what purpose they're managed, and what is their potential to serve Maine people and are growing numbers of visitors." To this end, he'll seek to improve the management capacity and tools available to his staff to identify for improvement particular sites with high demand and large need, and invest in their future by leveraging the new federal America's great outdoors monies for strategic investments.
[00:24:10] Forty years of experience teaches that the public reserve lands are at once a high-value and highly vulnerable asset- vulnerable to periodic raids on the trust fund, to meet emergency political needs, and to takeover by private commercial interests. If it is to succeed in this new opportunity, the Bureau of Public Lands must take the offensive and build a comprehensive strategy to broaden public knowledge of the public reserved lands and their many values to improve public access to them and to the facilities they offer, and realize their potential to help strengthen Maine's rural economy.
[00:24:46] This strategy will be best created in collaboration with other state and federal agencies and private organizations that leverage Maine's exceptional outdoor recreation assets to increase economic opportunity and revitalize remote rural communities. Most of all, if there great potential is to be realized, the Bureau of Public Lands must take care to build abiding support for the public reserve lands among the citizens of Maine, just as Governor Baxter did for his own renowned state park.
[00:25:14] These lands must become part of all that Maine people know, understand, enjoy, take pride in and love. They will endure and become all they might be, only as part of Maine people's hearts, minds imaginations, and ongoing conversations.
[00:25:29] Finally, then one may ask, what is the overriding lesson in all of this for all of us? It is to heed the words often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, "Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty, then, now, and always.".
[00:25:47] What you just heard was Richard Barringer, Lee Schepps's, Tomas Urquhart's and Mark Wilk's perspectives on Maine's Public reserved lands. Maine Policy Review is a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.
[00:26:01] The editorial team for Maine Policy Review is made up of Joyce Rumery, Linda Silka and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. A thank you to Jayson Heim and Kathryn Swacha, script writers for the Maine Policy Matters podcast. And to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant.
[00:26:16] In two weeks, we will be hearing from me the host Eric Miller, Marci Sorg, and Priyanka Sarker on "Drug Related Morbidity and Mortality in Maine".
[00:26:26] We'd like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser. If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform and stay updated on new episode releases.
[00:26:41] I am Eric Miller. Thanks for listening and please join us next time on Maine Policy Matters.

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