TRENTON— Candidates for House District 132 (Ellsworth and Trenton) shared their views on the pandemic, the opioid epidemic, the state budget, climate change and more on Tuesday evening at a forum hosted by League of Women Voters of Maine and The Ellsworth American.
Incumbent state Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) and City Councilor Michelle Renee Kaplan met virtually in an hour-long Zoom webinar moderated by Ellsworth American Managing Editor Cyndi Wood.
Kaplan was largely vague on specific policy or agenda ideas, but said she felt that the state needs to “tighten its belt” and “make cold, hard choices between a want and a need.” She did, however, support increasing reimbursement for mental health services.
“We need to increase reimbursement for psych hospitals, increase reimbursement for our addiction care, increase reimbursement to stabilize our mental health system in Maine and take better care of our older population,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan said she supports funding the police as a way to help keep those struggling with substance use disorders stay sober.
“The one thing standing in their way,” said Kaplan, “isn’t their dedication, it’s drug dealers.”
Grohoski said she supports adding new community treatment centers similar to the collaborative effort behind Downeast Treatment Center. Expanding Medicaid, said Grohoski, has also enabled more Mainers to access treatment. In the first eight months after its expansion, more than 35,000 Mainers had access to health care coverage.
“Ten percent used that new coverage to receive treatment for opioid use,” said Grohoski.
On how the state should respond to climate change, Grohoski said she feels Maine can reduce dependence on foreign oil and create high-paying jobs in the renewable energy sector.
“We should align our technical education programs with the skills needed for work installing and maintaining efficiency and renewable energy generation,” she said. “Addressing climate change and growing our economy can go hand in hand.”
Kaplan did not offer any solutions but said that “I’m a climate skepticist.” She spoke about a nonbinding U.N. action plan put forward in 1992, saying it intends to force the world to adopt a vegan diet, lower fertility rates and abandon an American middle class lifestyle.
The U.N. goals have no enforcement mechanisms or penalties and encourage communities to come up with local solutions to overpopulation, pollution, poverty and resource depletion.
On high-speed internet, Grohoski said that with low interest rates, it could be a good time to invest in building broadband infrastructure. She pointed to Calais and Baileyville, municipalities that have community-owned broadband infrastructure, as a way to entice internet service providers to come to areas where there is little other incentive to do so.
Kaplan said that “The problem I have with government subsidy of broadband is that on the one hand yes, it’s beneficial to all of us, but we’re subsidizing a corporation.” She did not offer an alternative.
Kaplan brought up several theories that have been thoroughly studied and debunked, including that the novel coronavirus came from a lab in China. Scientists studying the virus have said that the genetic sequence is different enough from other viruses that it is very unlikely to have been created from them. Kaplan also misstated the number of Americans whose deaths have involved COVID-19. It is roughly 200,000, not 2 million, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.