Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has cut off state funding that the four federally recognized Native American tribes in Maine were using to plan an expansion of addiction treatment and mental health care in their communities.
The move comes six years after Maine started including the tribes in state-funded efforts to combat major health problems. Tribal leaders now worry that recent initiatives to develop an addiction treatment center serving tribal members, improve life for seniors, and tackle other health challenges in the tribal communities in eastern and northern Maine could stall.
The public health work “was beginning to have some positive results, and, now, all of a sudden, it’s gone,” said Theodore Bear Mitchell I, a former Penobscot Indian Nation representative in the Maine Legislature.
Compared with Maine’s population, tribal members face higher rates of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure; they have markedly higher smoking and heavy drinking rates; and they have lower life expectancy.