After long public hearings, heated debates and extensive political maneuvering, LD 798 (An Act to Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements) was officially signed into law by Governor Mills on May 24. The official bill 1) broadens who can provide a medical exemption and leaves it to the discretion of the medical provider to determine if an exemption is warranted, and 2) removes the ability for students in primary or secondary schools and people working in in-patient health care settings to claim philosophical or religious exemptions for vaccinating.
This was a monumental effort from numerous groups – including the Maine Immunization Coalition (MIC) and the hundreds of people who are members of the MIC, Maine Families for Vaccines and their thousands of community members and you! Moving forward, the MIC will be working with Maine Families for Vaccines and the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure we are communicating about this bill accurately and addressing the concerns of people who are vaccine-hesitant. There are a lot of Maine people who need accurate information about the bill, immunization and their options. This has been a difficult bill to pass, and the challenges are not over; opponents are already talking about trying to bring this to referendum in the future. As always, we will monitor the situation and keep you abreast of future developments. Thank you for your considerable efforts in reaching out to legislators to encourage support for this bill! Ultimately, that is what this issue came down to – legislators hearing from people like you.
Priority Legislation/Advocacy Efforts
MPCA and the Public Policy Committee have been busy actively tracking bills, weighing in and submitting testimony on important pieces of legislation this session.
A number of priority bills of interest have made their way through the legislative process and have now been placed and/or will be placed on the special appropriations table. Among the many bills we are currently watching, the Public Policy Committee has prioritized the following three bills for advocacy efforts in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee as well as House and Senate chambers:
#1 LD: 1317 An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs
#2 LD: 1453 An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes
#3 LD: 392 An Act To Fund Maine’s School-based Health Centers
In the coming week, MPCA will be developing sample emails and call scripts that health centers can use in reaching out to their local representative and senator in support of these bills. Stay tuned.
Opioid Response Summit
Governor Janet Mills will convene an Opioid Response Summit on July 15, 2019 at the Augusta Civic Center. The summit, “Turning the Tide: Maine’s Path Forward in Addressing the Opioid Crisis,” will bring together members of the public, health providers, experts, affected individuals and families and law enforcement officials from across Maine to foster collaboration on the state’s ongoing response to the opioid crisis. The summit will feature national policy experts Michael Botticelli, President Barack Obama’s Director of National Drug Control Policy, and Sam Quinones, journalist and author of the landmark book, Dreamland, which chronicles the national opioid crisis and is widely credited with awakening public interest in the issue. Both will deliver keynote remarks.
The day-long summit will feature additional presentations on actions taken by neighboring states and new threats such as the emergence of deadly synthetic drugs. There will be breakout sessions moderated by experts on issues ranging from recovery support strategies to community coalitions. Registration will be open to the public in the coming weeks, at a cost of $40.00 per attendee, to cover the cost of lunch.