AUGUSTA — Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is changing the name of a key office that helps those with substance use disorders. The Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services will be renamed the Office of Behavioral Health, according to a statement from the department Tuesday.

The change reflects an evolving understanding of the underlying causes of substance use disorders, or SUDs, and recognizes that individuals facing SUDs often require and benefit from mental health services, the release said. The term “behavioral health” captures this, encompassing a continuum of services ranging from prevention, early intervention, treatment and crisis care to recovery.

It also moves away from the more stigmatizing term “substance abuse,” which fails to adequately convey SUD as a medical condition, the release said.

“This is more than simply a name change,” Maine Opioid Response Director Gordon Smith said in a statement. “It is an important statement attacking the stigma and prejudice that has negatively impacted persons with substance use disorders by categorizing this chronic illness as separate from other chronic illnesses. I heartily endorse this change.”

DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the change is meant to reflect that SUDs are medical conditions and the services required to treat them are part of an integrated system.

The department intends to roll out the name change informally this week with updates to the DHHS website, building signage and other materials. DHHS also will work with the Legislature, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and others to formally update contracts, statutes and regulations as needed, with a likely effective date of July 1.

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