Is your home safe?

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 1:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - Governor Janet Mills proclaimed September to be Safe Homes Awareness Month in honor of increasing education in the state around firearm and drug safety.

Mike Sauschuck, the Commissioner for the Maine Department of Public Safety, explains how the State of Maine’s Safe Homes Program aims to improve safety. The program, which funds educational services online, public service announcements and webinars, aims to inform people on how to safely store weapons and medications in their home.

“The program overall is geared toward safe storage of prescription medications as well as firearms and dangerous weapons,” says Sauschuck. “We have a lot of guns in Maine, period. And we certainly have a lot of overdoses across our state, so I think this is a natural fit for all of us.”

In 2021 the State of Maine passed a sales tax exemption for gun safety devices, such as safes or lockboxes, up to $250. The following year the state launched the Safe Homes Program, and this year the program received a large grant to further their efforts. “The Department of Public Safety got a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Justice, and that grant is focused on State Crisis Intervention program,” says Sauschuck. “That is something that’s looking at gun violence, gun deaths in the State of Maine.”

Sauschuck says that awareness around weapon safety is important in Maine specifically due to the main cause of gun-related deaths. “The vast majority of our gun deaths in Maine are not crime related,” he explains. “A lot of our deaths, however, are suicides - completed suicides - which are incredibly tragic.”

The grant will be spread out across numerous programs over the next four years. In fact, $500,000 from this grant will be given to law enforcement agencies across the state so they can purchase improved safety mechanisms for their weapons and weapons in their custody. Sauschuck says that many departments do not have the funding to store all weapons in the safest manner, particularly ones stored in evidence.

This program also aims to decrease overdoses in the state, which were at a record high in 2022. “The State of Maine was 716 drug overdoses last year,” Sauschuck explains. “Safe storage of medications so that they can’t get to our children, they can’t get to people accidentally, is certainly important to us as well.”

The Safe Homes Program has a website with links to free resources and education on topics ranging from mental illness to firearm violence prevention. Sauschuck urges the public to use this website to educate themselves and keep their homes, families, and loved ones safe.