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Maine Gov. Paul LePage To Veto Lifesaving Overdose Prevention Drug Legislation

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage may veto legislation for a second time that would increase access to an anti-overdose drug for heroin users.

The Huffington Post reports that while a spokesman for the governor said that LePage couldn’t comment on the bill yet, his track record points to a veto. LePage favors a tough-on-drug-crime agenda, while the Maine legislature has pushed for a more lenient approach that would save drug users’ lives and get them on track for recovery.

Last year LePage vetoed a “Good Samaritan” bill that would protect drug users who called 911 to report an overdose. Now he is set to veto legislation for the second time to increase access to Naloxone, a pharmaceutical known under the trade name Narcan that can reverse overdoses from heroin, morphine, and other opioids, by giving it to rescue officers and the families of drug users.

"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," said bill sponsor Rep. Sara Gideon.

Gideon wrote the legislation to promote a “harm reduction” approach to drug abuse.

"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."

Opponents have criticized LePage for his “enforcement over treatment” approach, especially in light of a sudden rise in heroin overdoses in Maine in 2012.

“Maine has a significant problem with drug addiction,” said U.S. Rep. and LePage gubernatorial challenger Mike Michaud. “We see the consequences in every community in our state. But if we want to improve lives, we have to take a balanced approach that pairs tough anti-drug laws with treatment, mental health care, job training and other support services. In this regard, the governor falls far short.”

While LePage has voiced his belief that increasing Narcan access would encourage drug users to push themselves over the limit, recent medical research indicates otherwise. Naloxone programs are starting up around the country and have been shown to reduce the rate of deaths by overdose.

Sources: Huffington Post, Kennebec Journal


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