Governor LePage and other New England Governors Lead Discussion on Opioid Abuse

June 7, 2016

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 07, 2016
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage today participated in the fifth annual International Conference on Opioids at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School. Governor LePage joined a Governors Panel featuring six New England governors who spoke about opioid abuse and actions taken by their administrations to address drug abuse, overdose and deaths.

“The New England governors are taking this issue very seriously, and our goal is to identify ways we can work together to fight this crippling pandemic we are all facing,” said Governor LePage. “We are making progress in Maine, and as far as overprescribing, doctors are cooperating, which is the first step. Second, is to ensure we keep the illicit drug off the streets. Maine is a leader in this crisis, and by sharing information with each other we can improve many – and in some cases – save lives.”

Attending governors include Governor Baker (MA), Governor Shumlin (VT), Governor Raimondo (RI), Governor LePage (ME), Governor Hassan (NH) and Governor Malloy (CT).

This year, the LePage Administration has tackled the heroin crisis with a three-fold strategy:

  1. Prevention: Maine enacted a bill to prevent opioid addiction and help close the gateway to heroin abuse by limiting the strength and duration of opioid prescriptions while requiring prescribers to participate in the PMP, undergo addiction training and submit opioid scripts electronically.

  2. Treatment: Governor LePage signed a bill to allocate another $3.5 million toward addiction treatment through enhanced funds for the uninsured and expanded access to detox facilities in the state. This is on top of the $72 million Maine spent on addiction treatment for the uninsured in 2015.

  3. Law Enforcement: Facing a shortage of state police and other state law enforcement personnel due to recruitment and retention problems, Governor LePage proposed and the legislature enacted bills to increase the number of MDEA agents by 10 and to increase salaries for law enforcement officers by up to 18 percent.

Studies show 75 percent of heroin addictions begin with an opiate prescription; those on prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin than those who are not. According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, in 2014 more than 80 million opioid pills were prescribed to nearly 350,000 people in Maine—that’s one-third of the adult population taking a pill a day for 8 months out of the year.

In MaineCare, the state cut opioid prescriptions in half in the past few years by setting limits on script sizes and encouraging alternative pain management techniques, such as chiropractic care, physical therapy and more.

The International Conference on Opioids is a two-day professional conference that explores emerging opioid research and initiatives aimed at improving patient care and reducing risk of abuse.
Organizers say it is designed to educate primary care physicians, pain specialists and others with an interest in applied opioid pharmacology and the public health aspects of opioids.

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