In the Maine Democratic Party's fourth installment of The Clone Wars, we highlight Governor LePage's tragic record in combatting Maine's deadly opioid crisis, as other Republican governors across the nation make progress, and show how the Republican candidates' want to largely continue his failed policies.
That’s the number of Mainers who died in 2017 from a drug-related overdose – an eleven percent increase from the year before and a tragically clear-eyed representation of the LePage Administration’s failure to stem this terrible epidemic.
2018 hasn’t gotten off to much of a better start either. From January through March of this year, drug-related deaths remained at a near all-time high. While other states in New England and around the country are moving to address their opioid crisis, Maine under Governor LePage has done very little.
Bangor Daily News: “The state is facing an opioid addiction epidemic that’s killing about one Mainer a day. Yet, the LePage administration hasn’t been treating it seriously.”
In fact, under LePage, Maine has restricted access to drug addiction treatment and reduced state funding for the problem even as the number of deaths has surged.
Morning Sentinel: “Starting in his first year in office, LePage and Mayhew promulgated rules that put time limits on methadone treatment, despite solid research that shows that the medicine allows many people to work and have a normal life, and that there is a high rate of relapse for people who are weaned off it.”
Press Herald: “The state’s financial commitment to fighting the heroin and opiate epidemic has decreased during a time when drug overdose deaths have soared into unprecedented territory and as demand for treatment far outstrips available resources.”
And the one treatment program that LePage has advanced hasn’t proven even remotely successful thus far:
Press Herald: “The LePage administration’s $4.8 million plan to provide substance abuse treatment to more than 400 Mainers affected by the opioid crisis has so far resulted in five uninsured people and fewer than 50 Medicaid recipients receiving treatment.”
To make it even worse, LePage continues to fight against the use of the life-saving, anti-overdose medication naloxone, which has the power to immediately reverse an overdose. “Naloxone does not truly save lives,” LePage wrote, “it merely extends them…” He has repeatedly vetoed bills increasing access to naloxone while his Administration has failed to advance rules that would dispense it.
Instead, the LePage Administration has placed an outsized priority on bolstering drug enforcement, even as law enforcement officials repeatedly say that Maine cannot arrest its way out of this epidemic.
Boston Globe: “When Massachusetts’ governor invited his New England counterparts to a meeting last month on the surge in opioid overdoses, the only no-show was Governor Paul LePage of Maine. […] To his critics, LePage’s decision to bypass the Waltham, Mass., meeting struck them as combative business as usual for a governor who, alone in New England, is emphasizing law enforcement over treatment as a response to the drug crisis.”
Meanwhile, Maine’s Republican candidates for governor have pledged to continue the vast majority of LePage’s failed policies on the opioid crisis. In fact, Ken Fredette and Garrett Mason have supported most of LePage’s policies as members of the legislature. Mary Mayhew worked hand-in-hand with the governor to craft policies that led to reduced treatment. And Shawn Moody says he gave a van to D.A.R.E in 1994 as one of his crowning achievements.
Rather than recognize the failure of LePage’s policies and put forward something new, the Republican candidates appear to be doubling-down:
“Mayhew blamed the crisis on policies that have ‘robbed people of their human dignity by trapping them in welfare, in poverty [and] governmental dependency.’ […] Mayhew said the track record of substance abuse treatment programs is ‘pathetic’…”
“Moody said his efforts would focus on providing more funding for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, drug education and promoting peer-to-peer programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. He proudly boasts that his business donated a van to the D.A.R.E. program in 1994. […] Moody said he would also try to rebuild the “tattered” mental health system, but has offered few details on how he would do it.”
“Fredette says his priorities would be to impose harsher drug laws, hiring more drug enforcement agents and engaging the assistance of the Maine National Guard to provide surveillance and intelligence. ‘I would build a wall down at Kittery at the bridge and I would put a cop on the bridge…’”
“Mason said there needs to be more recognition and support for faith-based treatment programs, which he said offer high success rates at little to no cost. He also doesn’t believe the state can spend its way out of the crisis.”
The number of Mainers dying every year from drug-related deaths tragically show that LePage’s policies aren’t working. So why would Shawn Moody, Mary Mayhew, Ken Fredette, and Garrett Mason want to continue them? When the opioid epidemic is tearing apart communities, hurting families, and hurting the future of our state, the last thing Maine needs is four more years of the governor’s backward proposals – but that’s all the Republicans are offering.