Over two-thirds of the Maine legislature voted today to override two harm reduction bills vetoed by Governor Paul LePage -- LD1552, a bill that would provide public funding for syringe exchange and expand syringe access, and LD 1547, legislation to allow access to the life-saving overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription.
LePage’s veto remarks of LD 1547, “naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose”, resulted in dozens of op-eds and articles within the last week blasting the governor’s comments and supporting increased access to naloxone via passage of LD 1547.
At a recent town meeting in Damariscotta Wednesday night, Governor LePage defended his veto saying, “There comes a point in time where who is responsible for who. You know a shot of Narcan is $70 and the person who gets it doesn’t have to pay it back.”
“Governor LePage may think a person’s life is worth less than $70, but saving lives is priceless and we are going to continue to advocate for laws that are based in science, compassion and human rights,” said Jerónimo Saldaña, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Today, the Maine legislature sent a resounding message to Governor LePage and every other elected official in the nation that promoting failed drug war policies will not be tolerated.”
“Maine, like every other state in the nation is seeing the tragedy of the nation’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic unfold before our eyes literally on a daily basis” wrote the President of the American Medical Association to Maine lawmakers in support of LD 1547 earlier this week. “In response, the medical community and many others joined together to support new legislation that will have a direct effect on the supply of prescription opioids in Maine. The Legislature also passed LD 1547 to address an equally important need – that is, help save lives from overdose.”
"Naloxone saves lives. In order to obtain treatment, a person must remain alive. Addiction is a treatable condition and not a moral failing." says Chris Poulos, a native Mainer in long term recovery who overcame addiction and federal incarceration to attend law school and work on criminal justice policy reform at the local, state, and federal levels.
Maine pharmacists will now be able to provide naloxone to friends and family members of people suffering from heroin addiction without a prescription. Over thirty states from all around the country including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin provide access to naloxone without a prescription. Since 1996, naloxone has been instrumental in saving at least tens of thousands of lives from overdose.