Augusta, MAINE – During a press conference today, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett called out Republican gubernatorial candidates Mary Mayhew and Shawn Moody for their silence surrounding an effort to ease access to the life-saving, anti-overdose drug known as naloxone.
Governor Paul LePage has been blocking the implementation of rules approved by state regulators five months ago that would make the drug available over the counter. In the wake of the news about LePage’s stalling, Democrats across the state – along with Republican gubernatorial candidates Mike Thibodeau, Ken Fredette, and Garrett Mason – spoke out against LePage, calling for him to move the rules forward. Mary Mayhew and Shawn Moody, however, have been silent.
“Why are Mary Mayhew and Shawn Moody remaining silent on an issue that can save lives?” asked Phil Bartlett. “Governor LePage is wrong about naloxone, and legislators on both sides of the aisle have said so – including the other Republican gubernatorial candidates. This issue isn’t going to just evaporate with a new Administration, and that’s why Maine people deserve to know where Mayhew and Moody stand. Do they support making naloxone more widely available or do they stand with Governor LePage and believe it ‘merely extends lives’?”
Chairman Bartlett was also joined by Representative Jay McCreight (D-Harpswell), who serves as the House Chair of the Opioid Task Force; State Senator Ben Chipman (D-Portland), who serves on the Joint Standing Health and Human Services Committee; and Andrew Kiezelus, a person in long-term recovery who works to raise awareness about substance abuse and avenues for recovery. All of them spoke about the importance of allowing naloxone to be sold over the counter as a tool to help save lives and urged the Governor to approve the rules immediately.
“This epidemic crosses all demographics: it effects all age groups, all income groups, those living in both rural and urban areas. It does not discriminate and not one of us is left untouched,” said Representative McCreight of Harpswell. “We need to increase access to this treatment, but we must make sure people stay alive to receive that treatment. All lives are valuable. To put it bluntly, if someone dies of an overdose, they can’t receive treatment. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that must be made available.”
"This crisis is affecting people of all ages in all parts of the state and we need to take action now. We did our job when we passed this bill. Now the governor needs to do his job and release these rules immediately," said Senator Ben Chipman of Portland. "Let's be clear, there is one person who can take action today to save lives. Each day the governor waits to do his job, he is choosing to allow people to die. Delaying this is wrong on every level."
“In 2016, Maine ranked eighth in the nation for opioid overdose rates, per capita, surpassing stated like New York, Florida, Texas, and California to name a few,” said Andrew Kiezualas. “We can not afford to keep Naloxone out of the reach of Mainers. We must build bridges within our communities and enable recovery to happen. You can’t find recovery or build bridges when you’re dead.”
In April 2016, Maine State lawmakers approved making naloxone available without a prescription and overrode, on a bipartisan basis, a veto by the Governor, in which he said naloxone “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”
To watch the complete archived video of the press conference, click HERE.