Maine to Deploy National Guard to Fight Opioid Crisis While Treatment Sites Close

By Victoria Kim 09/01/15

Maine would be better served if the National Guard were dispatched to the governor's mansion instead.

Paul LePage
LePage demonstrating how much sanity he has left. Photo via

While other states have expanded drug treatment as a response to the opioid crisis, Maine, under Governor Paul LePage, has instead followed a drug enforcement strategy that has long been discredited.

With little support from the LePage administration for treatment services, many treatment centers have had no choice but to close due to a lack of funding. The latest development? The state will deploy the National Guard in a support role to combat drug trafficking, Reuters reports. The decision was announced last week, after LePage met with state law enforcement officials in a closed door meeting.

The situation in Maine shows no signs of letting up. On July 31, emergency crews in Portland responded to 14 suspected overdoses in a 24-hour period, MBPN News reports.

The administration will use existing state resources to fund a special intelligence unit, building on an existing program that uses National Guard soldiers acting as intelligence analysts, according to Public Safety Commissioner John Morris. The state police will head the unit, which will focus on “hunting” drug traffickers and stopping the flow of drugs to the state.

Under LePage, there are now fewer treatment options in Maine than before, which is the result of his dedication to prioritizing enforcement over treatment. In 2014, the governor rejected legislation that would equip first responders and families of at-risk users with the overdose antidote, naloxone.

In August, the state decided to terminate a contract with the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, a major provider of substance use disorder and addictions services, by the year’s end.

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