Immigrant center coming to Bangor

In an effort to better integrate immigrants into the community and boost the region’s workforce, Bangor may spend $100,000 to help pay for staff at the city’s new multicultural center.

At a city council meeting on Monday evening, councilors Sean Faircloth and Joe Baldacci proposed the city help fund two positions at the city’s Maine Multicultural Center.

The city would only kick in the money if the multicultural center, which opened in November and is funded through the Bangor-based Eastern Maine Development Corporation’s nonprofit status, is able to raise the same amount from other sources, said Faircloth, who also serves on the center’s executive committee that oversees its day to day operations. The councilors did not propose a specific year for the funding.

Economists estimate the number of people retiring in Maine will surpass the number of younger people available to replace them over the next couple of decades. During Monday night’s meeting, a number of immigrants and representatives from several hospitals, universities and businesses told the more than 60 people in attendance that the community needs the multicultural center in order to attract and retain immigrants, so the region’s economy can grow.

“I think Bangor has untapped potential to move into the 21st century. And it’s not an issue of political correctness, it’s an issue of basic economics,” said Baldacci. “I believe we can find the money. I think the money is well worth the investment.”

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What Bangor with public/private non-profit providers is doing to fight substance abuse and save lives

What Bangor as a community-in partnership with the Community Health Leadership Board, which involves a number of public and private non-profit providers, is doing to fight substance abuse and to literally save lives.  Please keep in mind that, we have only just got started and have a long road to go but we have started:

  1. Reestablish the Penobscot County Adult Drug treatment Court with up to 30 slots available at any one time for treatment.
  2. Advocated and introduced legislation to fund a social detox center in this area.
  3. Legislation passed and collaborative program with wellspring in place.
  4. Launched Primary Care Buprenorphine Treatment: developed treatment protocols in primary care and at the hospitals.
  5. Raised $17,000 to distribute 500 doses of free Narcan to save people from overdosing.
  6. Developed and implemented Community Wide prescribing protocols for Narcotic medications.
  7. Reviewed practice standards of locally medically assisted treatment providers for opiod use disorder.
  8. Supported and the City through its PD and Public Health director are setting up a local Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion ( LEAD ) program to give nonviolent offenders treatment before jail; Peer recovery Coach program, creating the position of Bangor PD Substance Use case manager to be a ride along and deal with offenders in real time if you will and try to promote treatment alternatives and refer for treatment; and PCHC’s upcoming integrated opioid use disorder family medicine clinic to help provide induction and stabilization of patients w/ the goal of reducing wait times for getting started with treatment.
  9. Legislation advocacy for programs and funding for our region of Maine.
  10. Developed a model for sober housing for individuals in need. Submitting grant request to support this work in September 2017.

Source : Patty Hamilton Bangor’s Public Health Director. The City Council is regularly briefed on these issues because we are acutely aware of this crisis in our community. And all of the actions outlined above were approved, funded or participated in with the help and support of the City of Bangor

Baldacci: It’s best to make city government Bangor’s sole retail marijuana seller

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From article in the Bangor Daily News By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff .  March 14, 2017,
BANGOR, Maine — City government should be Bangor’s sole source of retail marijuana when it becomes legal, City Council Chairman Joe Baldacci says.

Baldacci outlined his position to a rather surprised council during a workshop on Monday. Local government is best positioned to protect city youth and enforce pot laws while using sale proceeds to benefit Bangor, he said.

“I would prefer that the money stay in local government pockets to fund things like schools and roads and police and fire,” Baldacci said Tuesday. “Most people think of it as a good idea.”

“Somebody is going to do this,” Baldacci added, referring to the retail marijuana sales. “Cities in general have been cut by state and federal government reductions in funding. The money’s got to come from somewhere.”
Baldacci’s idea, however, could ultimately threaten the city’s federal funding, City Manager Cathy Conlow and Assistant City Manager Michael Crooker said during the workshop. The city gets about $30 million annually in federal law enforcement and other grants that contractually require the city to follow federal law. Under federal law, they said, marijuana remains illegal. Continue reading →

Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci discusses mayors visit to Augusta

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Bangor has been forced to find ways to pay for important services while receiving much less state aid. It’s a problem that inspired mayors from Bangor and other communities to travel to the Statehouse last week to ask for more help and better ways to work with the state.

“We discussed how Bangor generates 8-10 percent of Maine’s entire sales tax revenue and yet they are returning pennies on that shorting Bangor homeowners 5 million per year in reduced revenue sharing, reduced aid to education and reduced homestead exemption. It’s no wonder the state has a surplus we’re helping to pay for it,” said Bangor Mayor Baldacci.

For the Channel 7 report on Baldacci’s visit to Augusta click HERE. 

Bangor city councilors want to tap savings to buy buses, fix building

“We actually produce savings over the longer term because we are not bonding and paying interest over 20 or 30 years,” Baldacci said Bangor sunset, photo by Ramona du Houx

The City Council Finance Committee wants the council to allocate $1.6 million from the city’s undesignated fund balance to save taxpayers money next year.

The committee unanimously agreed on Monday to recommend that the council allocate the $1.6 million to three areas. The allocation includes $663,386 to the city’s capital improvement reserve for FY 2018, $300,000 to help fund the purchase of four new public transportation buses, and $636,614 to fund upgrades to the Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 103 Texas Ave.

Council Chairman Joe Baldacci said he hoped the council would follow the committee’s recommendation when councilors meet on Feb. 13.

The committee agreed to the allocation after learning from the city’s auditors, the firm of Runyon Kersteen Ouellette of South Portland, that the city had slightly more than $3 million in additional revenues — largely, Baldacci said, from getting higher-than-expected amounts of excise taxes from new vehicle purchases.

“By doing it this way, we actually produce savings over the longer term because we are not bonding and paying interest over 20 or 30 years,” Baldacci said Wednesday.

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REPEAL OF THE ACA WILL COST BANGOR $ 60 MILLION PER YEAR

16427342_10211866847487247_8939717279348422114_nBaldacci called the potential repeal “extremely important to the city.”

From an article by Nick Sambides Jr., in the Bangor Daily News, Feb. 01, 2017

City day-care owners expressing fears about ordinance changes that could force their businesses to close. Restaurant owners squeezed by a statewide minimum-wage increase. Residents battling code issues for several years.

City Councilor Cary Weston counts these as issues his fellow councilors should be addressing rather than writing a letter opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to Maine’s congressional representatives.

Council Chairman Joe Baldacci, however, said he pressed councilors last week for the two-page letter because estimates by the Maine Hospital Association indicate that repeal of the Affordable Care Act without an adequate replacement would cost three Bangor hospitals about $61 million annually.

Baldacci said he will mail the letter to U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin on Friday, after councilors finish signing it. Baldacci released a copy of it Wednesday. . .

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500 Narcan kits being offered free in Bangor area

Four local medical centers will distribute free prescription Narcan for people at risk of overdosing on opioids next month in 500 lifesaving kits that were funded by private donations, officials said January 26,2017.
The survival kits include instruction on how to administer the Narcan and information about available crisis services, shelters, recovery support groups and public transportation, officials said.

Patty Hamilton, director of Bangor Public Health and Community Services, expressed gratitude for the $17,000 in donations that funded the kits but said the supply is “a drop in the bucket.”It likely will be exhausted in three weeks, Hamilton said.

“People are dying every day, and we absolutely have to step it up as best we can,” Hamilton said Thursday, adding that the donors answered “a real call to action.This is a real public health crisis and people are acting accordingly.”

The medical centers’ primary care offices, and the hospitals’ emergency departments, will be prescribing the nasal spray. Acadia Hospital will distribute the Narcan to patients within its adult outpatient services, officials said.The Narcan will go to people at risk who cannot afford to pay for it.

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Bangor City Council leaders oppose possible ACA repeal

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EXCERPTS from a Bangor Daily Article by Nick Sambides Jr

The City Council will mail a letter to the state’s federal government representatives opposing repealing Obamacare, Chairman Joe Baldacci said Tuesday.
Crafted by City Solicitor Norman Heitmann, the letter to U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will likely reach them next week, Baldacci said.

 

The council voted 7-2 to approve the idea on Monday after an occasionally contentious debate on the national health care act that took up large portions of councilors’ 5:30 p.m. workshop and their full council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Councilors Cary Weston and David Nealley opposed the proposed resolution.

Weston described the letter as well-meaning but inappropriate for the council and burdensome work for government staff. . .

 

Others supported the idea. Baldacci said that with Bangor-area hospitals projected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without replacement, the council has a legitimate stake in the issue. One projection sets $300 million as the likely loss to Maine hospitals if the act is repealed without replacement.

A draft of Heitmann’s letter, which is expected to be refined, cites how the act, since it was passed in 2010, has reduced the number of uninsured from 41 million to 29 million people nationwide. Under the act, 588,000 Mainers are eligible for preventative care without cost-sharing, while 8,000 others get coverage until age 26. More than 273,000 Mainers on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program also benefit from the program, Heitmann wrote. . .

 Residents who spoke during Monday’s council meeting were mostly in favor of keeping Obamacare intact. Resident Kevin Sheasgreen said the act’s repeal would imperil the city’s poorest and hardest-working residents.

“I think after a lot of ideological showboating, there’s no realistic replacement that’s going to be an improvement on it, and perhaps with enough pressure of this sort we can get down to the work of actually continuing the ACA and improving it,” Sheasgreen said, “and improving the health of our citizens.

What Bangor is doing to ease Maine’s deadly drug epidemic

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Posted Dec. 04, 2016, at 10:26 a.m.

According to the Maine attorney general’s office, 272 Mainers died of drug overdoses in 2015, a 30 percent increase over 2014. This year, we are easily surpassing those figures. On average, one Mainer dies each and every day from a drug overdose.

In our own community, the fire department has seen use of Narcan — a nasal spray that can save someone from death by overdose — skyrocket in the last five years, from 15 uses of it in 2011 to 57 uses in 2015 to at least 100 uses on suspected overdoses just through Nov. 30, 2016. This spring, the Bangor City Council authorized the police department to also carry Narcan, and, as of Dec. 1, the police department has saved 16 lives with it. In 2015, the Bangor Police Department identified 66 cases as involving a possible overdose. So far this year, we are at 111 cases.

We are fortunate and thankful to the men and women working as firefighters, paramedics and police officers. They are some of the real heroes of this effort to save lives.

This is not a political issue, it is a human issue requiring human responses. It is an issue that requires state and national leadership — neither of which we have. Local communities are now forced to handle it with everything we have to save and protect citizens.

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Since 2014, Bangor has been in partnership with the Community Health Leadership Board as well as the hospitals and other nonprofits to better marshall local resources.

The essential thing is that all of us act constructively and rationally in this effort. Because we have done this, we have made progress. Here’s where:

Adult drug treatment court

In 2012, the state closed the drug treatment court in Bangor that helped monitor on a weekly basis dozens of drug offenders as well as assist in their getting treatment. After a successful effort by both the City Council and state legislative delegation, the program has been reinstated, and it will be able to monitor and provide treatment options to at least 30 drug offenders at any one time.

Law-Assisted Diversion Project

The city is working on a jail diversion effort in partnership with the Health Equity Alliance. We also are working to fund a substance abuse case manager embedded in the police department. Both efforts will be coordinated with local hospitals and other providers to get nonviolent offenders treatment first, not jail first.

Detoxification center

The City Council has supported and sought the establishment of a 10-bed detox center to serve as a first stop for people who commit to recovery. Currently, the only places for people to detox are jail, home or the emergency room. None of those places are equipped to handle the complex needs of someone who is detoxing and establish a continuum of care for them when they leave detox.

Regional model of continuum of care that increases rural access

Acadia Hospital has taken the lead and has funding to enlist St. Joseph Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center providers in the provision of Suboxone — an alternative to methadone — in their primary care practice settings. This is currently in progress. Penobscot Community Health Care was awarded a federal grant to expand primary care medication-assisted treatment in its practices as did Health Access Network in Lincoln.

Recovery

The city has given strong support to Bangor Area Recovery Network efforts for its peer recovery coaching program. The city awarded funding for this important effort to help people stay clean.

Early Recovery Treatment & Housing

In conjunction with community partners, the city is involved in exploring several models to complete the continuum of care after someone is released from detox. We have reached out to the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative and may replicate some of its efforts here. Penquis is our lead partner on this work.

I am proud of the work of my fellow councilors, along with a hard-working staff that works collaboratively to involve all community partners and has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of saved lives.

Joseph M. Baldacci serves on the Bangor City Council.

Bangor’s revitalization plans

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BANGOR, Maine — City leaders hope to see the completion of the West Side Village rehabilitation and the continued development of the waterfront over the next 12 months.

The City Council also will tackle the redevelopment of Pickering Square, according to a recent workshop at the police station where City Manager Cathy Conlow and town department managers briefed the council on their plans.

Council Chairman Joe Baldacci said he thinks the council’s biggest priority, however, is maintaining city services against expected $5 million to $7 million annual shortfalls in state education funding and revenue-sharing.

“Every year, that is a challenge because of the policies in Augusta. We will have to work to ensure that we cover the basics. We have to keep everything running,” Baldacci said Wednesday. “We have great schools and [fire and police departments] but the roads could be better.”

The council passed a $95.4 million budget with a 7-1 vote in late June. The budget raises $57.7 million in taxes and increased the tax rate from $21.95 to $22.50, a 2.5 percent increase. The budget includes $50.9 million in city expenditures, as well as the $44.5 million school budget approved by voters at the polls earlier that month. Continue reading →