Maine's Cretin Guv to Stricken Addicts: We Prefer You Dead, Thanks

Maine's Cretin Guv to Stricken Addicts: We Prefer You Dead, Thanks

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Garrett Brown hugs his mother Traci in June 2015. He died of an overdose shortly after. Photo by Erin Rhoda/BDN

Because it hasn't been enough to insult brown-skinned people, vow revenge against environmentalists, blame Shifty and Smoothie for our state's opiate ills, hold illegal closed meetings on education and otherwise act like the unfathomably ignorant, relentlessly fear-mongering human bowling jacket - kudos to Charles Pierce - that he is, Maine's so-called Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill, universally supported by health professionals, law enforcement and bipartisan legislators alike, to allow pharmacists to dispense without prescription the opiate-fighting Narcan, which reverses heroin overdoses that could otherwise be fatal. This, despite a state opiate epidemic that last year saw over 15,000 Mainers seek treatment for addiction and at least 272 overdose deaths, a 31% increase over the previous year. 

LD 1547, which had the unanimous approval of Maine's legislature, would allow the purchase of Naloxone Hydrochloride (Narcan) from pharmacies without a prescription; it also gave police and fire departments legal immunity to carry Narcan on emergency overdose calls and administer it "in good faith and with reasonable care.” The bill replicates existing policy in about 30 states, where Narcan is broadly supported as a commonsense harm reduction measure that can and does save the lives of heroin users. But never mind all that sciencey stuff. In his veto statement, LePage - a pro-life Catholic who calls abortion "the killing of babies" - wrote, "Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose." He added that making Narcan available "produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction," because, really, if the gleeful experience of rampant addiction is about anything, it's about feeling normal and secure.

Understandably, many sentient beings have called out LePage on his idiotic argument that “saving lives perpetuates addiction and that it is better to let people die.” Cathy Breen, a Maine legislator, charged he is "demonizing people who are suffering with (an) illness, and by demonizing them, he makes them less than human." Baltimore's Health Commissioner blasted him as "unscientific, inhumane, and ill-informed," drawing the analogy of withholding medication for a peanut allergy. A flabbergasted Rachel Maddow noted that even with the option to save your life, "Maine’s governor would prefer you dead.” Others noted that LePage's cruel world view, uncannily like Drumpf's, should serve as a cautionary tale for the country.

Closer to home, where Mainers are dying when they could live, critics stress the grim realities of a disease whose victims - unlike those of car crashes or house fires - too often remain nameless, faceless and easy to stereotype. And they are everywhere, says Police Chief Damien Pickel of Milo - population under 2,000 - in central Maine. In a furious Facebook post to LePage signed, "A flatlander police chief that gives a damn," he says Narcan "does save lives." "You should listen to your police, fire, EMS and medical professionals before you make any further uninformed statements. We're getting it done on a daily basis. We save lives - whether you're rich or poor, black, white, green or purple, addict or sober." His call to help and treat "those who are bound by the chains of addiction" resonates more deeply when you hear their stories. Here are a couple of them. The Legislature votes Friday on the veto; if it can't get the two-thirds majority needed to override, there will be more of them.

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Terry Walsh, fire deputy chief in Portland, responds to a possible heroin overdose in July. Photo by Linda Davidson/ The Washington Post
 
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The Opiate Effect from GRPNY on Vimeo.

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