Maine Gov. Paul LePage Opposes Access To Anti-Overdose Medication

By McCarton Ackerman 02/12/14

LePage has once again put his beliefs ahead of overwhelming evidence and in the process potentially puts more lives unnecessarily at risk.

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A lifesaving anti-overdose medication will likely continue to be severely restricted in Maine due to Republican Governor Paul LePage rejecting a bill that would increase its access. LePage believes the increased access will encourage drug abuse, despite public health experts refuting this belief and a total lack of any medical evidence to support his concerns.

State Rep. Sara Gideon sponsored legislation to place Naloxone, which can reverse overdoses from heroin and opioids such as morphine, into the hands of police, firefighters, and families of at-risk users. But prior to a hearing set for today, Gideon was advised that LePage would oppose all components of the bill. She was told that "his main objection is his belief -- and I have to emphasize 'his belief' because there is no evidence that supports this at all -- his belief that increasing the availability of Narcan or naloxone will lead the drug user or drug abuser to have this feeling of invincibility.”

In his three years as governor, LePage has cut funds for substance abuse treatment and requested funds to add 14 more agents to the state Drug Enforcement Agency. He also vetoed bills last year to provide legal immunity for health professionals administering naloxone to those suffering from an overdose, as well as create “Good Samaritan” protections that would allow people who called 911 when they suspected a companion had overdosed to not be charged with drug possession.

“If you want to change someone's behavior and really reduce the harm, you need to be able to save their life first," said Gideon. "It's that simple. Unless you believe that somebody who is using a drug should die because of their choice, I don't see how you can object to putting Narcan in the hands of more people."

A Massachusetts study from last year found that communities with naloxone distribution programs had reduced overdose death rates far more than those without them. A spokesman for LePage said the governor would decline comment for now because the bill hadn’t yet reached his desk.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.