Augusta, ME - Now that law enforcement officers across the state are carrying Narcan to reverse heroin overdoses, Governor Paul LePage wants opioid addicts to be the ones to pay for it.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the Governor wants communities to charge addicts, and penalize cities, towns, and counties that don't charge addicts. On Tuesday, May 2, Governor LePage introduced a bill that requires cities and counties to 'recover the cost of naloxone hydrochloride', also known as Narcan, from 'repeat users', and includes a $1,000 fine for those that don't comply.
Bangor area doctors and professionals are not enthusiastic about the bill, and said that it would be harder to fight the state's drug epidemic. Dr. Noah Nesin asked "whether the same requirement would be made of people with other chronic diseases."
It's not clear if the state can force cities and counties to pay for services that they provide locally to residents. It's also unknown how the bill would affect communities or counties that get the nasal spray through grant funding or donations.
Governor LePage has vetoed two previous bills involving Narcan, which were overridden. He said that the drug "does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose."
Currently there is no tracking system of addicts who are given Narcan more than once. The Maine Attorney General's Office began providing Narcan nasal sprays to police agencies across the state last year.
Governor LePage's bill would require city or county officials who 'dispense the medicine' to "make all reasonable efforts to identify whether that individual has previously been administered an opioid antagonist", and to “make all reasonable efforts to recover the cost of the dose administered if it is not the first opioid antagonist administered to the individual.”
The Department of Health and Human Services would be responsible for enforcement of the $1,000 fines, according to the bill.
In 2016, 376 people died of drug overdoses in Maine. Opioids or a combination of opioids were responsible for 84% of the deaths.
In 2015, a law was passed that allowed police officers and firefighters to administer Narcan. It was originally vetoed by Governor LePage, whose strategy in fighting the war on drugs appears to be to let all of the addicts die.
A law was passed in 2016 that directed the state's Attorney General's office to buy Narcan in bulk so that it would be affordable for first responders. Nearly 1,500 units were supplied to 45 agencies. Narcan has been used 122 times since then 'to revive people who have overdosed.'
The pharmaceutical company that makes Narcan offers a reduced rate of $75 for each unit, which contains two nasal sprays, to law enforcement.