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Governor LePage to Convene Experts to Address Maine’s Drug Crisis
August 5, 2015
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531
Top officials will meet to discuss resources and take action
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage will convene in August a group of top officials from state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, addiction treatment and recovery advocates and other experts and professionals to address the deadly drug epidemic facing Maine. The call to action by Governor LePage came immediately after learning about 14 heroin overdoses in Portland, all of which occurred in a 24-hour period of time.
Governor LePage will hold a summit later this month with a variety of experts from state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies, substance abuse treatment centers, the medical community and others to focus on ways to make an impact in the fight against heroin trafficking and addiction in Maine.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Legislative leadership, Governor LePage urges lawmakers to reconsider allocating funding for much needed resources to combat the State’s drug problem. “The national and state media is finally paying attention to Maine’s drug crisis, and we are hearing stories on a daily basis about overdoses from heroin and other opiates. You must take action now to stop the flow of this deadly poison into our state,” he wrote.
The original biennial budget submitted by Governor LePage included funding for 4 new District Court Judges within the Judicial Branch, 7 Investigative Agents in the Department of Public Safety and 4 Assistant Attorney General positions within the Office of the Attorney General. The Legislature provided only half of those resources.
“How many more Mainers must die before you commit the resources we need to fight this drug epidemic? Deaths from heroin quadrupled from seven in 2011 to 28 in 2012, then went up to 34 in 2013 and surged to 57 last year. Even more alarming is the rising number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl, which is 40 times stronger than heroin and is often combined with heroin without the user’s knowledge. Fentanyl-related deaths have increased dramatically from 9 to 43 from 2011 to 2014,” stated Governor LePage in the letter.
Funding for these critical positions is needed to combat the increased threat to health and public safety of Mainers. Adequate resources within law enforcement and the judicial branch, combined with treatment and recovery, will help prevent and treat the devastating effects deadly drugs, especially heroin, has on thousands of families and individuals in Maine.