Governor LePage Issues Statement on 2017 Opioid Overdose Deaths

February 23, 2018

For Immediate Release: Friday, February 23, 2018
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA—Governor Paul R. LePage issued the following statement on the recently released 2017 opioid overdose death rates.

“We are saddened to see an increase in overdose deaths due to opioids and we will continue to address this crisis on all fronts,” stated Governor LePage. “The increasing availability of fentanyl is fueling an increase in overdoses. Fentanyl-related deaths surged 27 percent in 2017. When heroin users are led to believe they are taking their usual amount of heroin but it is fentanyl, they overdose. We must stop the trafficking of fentanyl into our state.”

“We need more education, stronger enforcement, and more available treatment including faith-based programs. We are adding hundreds of treatment beds in Windham with a significant portion dedicated to substance-abuse intervention. We must also focus prevention efforts on our middle-school youth so that they never start using any addictive substance that can lead them down this tragic path,” Governor LePage said.

The Bureau of Insurance released data last month showing significant decreases in the prescribing of opiates covered by insurance. The Bureau’s analysis of the Maine Health Data Organization’s data for the first two quarters of 2016 and 2017 indicate that the number of members with prescriptions for opioids and opioid derivatives decreased from 51,253 in the first half of 2016 to 40,591 in the first half of 2017, a drop of over 10,000 members with these prescriptions, and that the number of prescription claims for opioids and opioid derivatives decreased 19.8 percent, with 27,739 fewer claims between the first half 2016 and the first half of 2017.

Governor LePage also issued the following statement regarding how the Attorney General released the 2017 figures: “As disturbing as this data is, it is even more disturbing for the Attorney General to attach to such an important and highly anticipated annual news release a PDF file of an op ed she wrote for the Bangor Daily News last month, within which she did not disclose that she is a candidate for governor. Not only is the piece ill-informed as most of her recommendations are vague, already in place or being implemented, but it is inappropriate since her office is the keeper of the State Drug Death Statistics and they should be released in the most sensitive and objective manner.”