FILE – Painkillers

This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.

(The Center Square) – Maine Gov. Janet Mills is bumping up Medicaid reimbursement rates for substance use disorder treatment as the state battles a rise in opioid related overdose deaths.

Beginning Nov. 1, the rate for detox providers will increase by 77%, to $385 per day, the Mills administration said, while the rate for halfway house service will increase 56% to $165 per day.

The rate increases, which will cost $2.1 million, were approved by the state Legislature as part of the $8.5 billion budget signed by Mills in July.

In a statement, Mills said changing the course of the opioid epidemic will mean ensuring that Mainers have access to high-quality substance abuse treatment options.

"Our state is diminished every time we lose a person to a drug overdose, and my heart breaks for their friends, family, and community members," Mills said. "With drug overdose deaths reaching record levels as a result of the pandemic and the increased prevalence of fentanyl, our administration is doing whatever we can prevent drug use, support recovery, and save lives."

Maine reported a record 502 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020, many of them linked to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

So far this year, the state has reported more than 300 confirmed or suspected opioid overdose deaths, the AG's office said.

Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the increased reimbursement rates are aimed at improving treatment for opioid addiction.

“Saving lives from drug overdoses includes ensuring that those struggling with substance use disorder can get high-quality treatment and help when they need it," she said.

Meanwhile, the state has awarded a $300,000 grant to a nonprofit providing treatment for substance abuse at county jails and other locations.

Mills has diverted tens of millions of dollars to expanding access to opioid prevention and treatment, as well as the overdose reversing drug naloxone.

Nationally, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020 – a nearly 30% increase over 2019, according to provisional data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.