January 21, 2018
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LePage has chance to save lives from drug overdose — apparently, he’s not taking it

By Bill Foster, Special to the BDN

I’ve become unpleasantly familiar with Gov. Paul LePage’s peculiar disposition regarding governing and public service. His pronouncements often stun. So often, his political propositions seem designed to limit rather than expand our lives.

It’s just that so much of it does not make sense. But, so be it. He won an election. And he is our governor.

But, one of his recent pronouncements, as aired nationally on NBC Nightly News, exceeds all my expectations as to his unusual views regarding his responsibilities as our governor.

In that video segment, he gruffly informed us and the nation, with the kind assistance of NBC, that he is, effectively, an avid advocate of death rather than life. One wonders how he arrived at such an unusual public posture.

Well, he spoke directly and forcefully as to his abiding opposition to ensuring the availability of a newly FDA-approved emergency overdose treatment, Evzio, which immediately revives anyone who has stopped breathing because of an opioid overdose. Simply put, Evzio saves lives.

After that national broadcast, LePage reconsidered his flat-out opposition to ensuring Evzio’s availability. He budged a little, saying he was willing to allow the drug to be prescribed to family members of opiate addicts. But that was only one component of a more ambitious legislative proposal by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport.

When the House on Monday unanimously approved legislation that went slightly beyond LePage’s slimmed-down version, he announced he would veto the most reasonable measure to expand access to the overdose treatment.

Based on the same pharmaceutical agent as the more familiar emergency treatment, Narcan, this newly approved opioid antidote, with its simple, easily administered injection system, could save the lives of Mainers. Yet, our governor says it must not be available to us. Rather, we will let folks die. Very peculiar.

I gather this is a foreshadowing of a new and pervasive health policy initiative offered to us by our most interesting governor. Next, perhaps, on the list of prohibited life-saving assets may be defibrillators, the Jaws of Life and tourniquets. l await his announcement that these other emergency, life-saving, life-preserving treatments are to be prohibited within our borders. While our fellow Americans get to live another day, we Mainers don’t. Talk about your “death panels.”

Very peculiar, indeed!

Seriously, in the face of a burgeoning epidemic of opioid overdose in Maine and throughout the nation ( some 16,600 died of opioid overdoses in the U.S. in 2010 alone), this new, life-preserving treatment should reasonably be made available to all who need it. We can debate the reasons why one of us or our fellow citizens overdosed and how it can be prevented in the future. That’s a most reasonable discussion. But we must not allow that debate to become a postmortem conversation.

First, let’s save a life, and then we can treat the tragedy of risky opioid use and full-blown opioid addiction.

That is the health policy proposition that should drive our health care and emergency services here in Maine. Not the ill-informed, naive and deadly policy our governor has offered us and announced to the whole nation.

With the help of Gideon and her bill, LD 1686, LePage has an opportunity to step into the light. Certainly, not very far. But, at least not quite as deep into the shadows of death as he was before.

Bill Foster of Phippsburg is president and CEO and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.


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