Taking a LePage from an Outdated Book

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger

Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” Gov. Paul LePage (Miller, 2016).

Maine’s very own Republican Governor Paul LePage, is renown for his ability to say just the wrong thing in the absolutely worst way possible, and his above quote is an example. LePage’s comment is a part of his veto the Maine legislature’s attempt to expand the ability of pharmacies to provide naloxone – a non-habit forming drug used to counteract the effects of opioid and heroin overdoses – without the need for a prescription.

Photo of Maine Governor Paul LePage

Photo Source: Business Insider

This type of legislation is nothing unusual – roughly 30 states have similar Harm Reduction laws on the books. Maine, in fact, has already increased access to naloxone by making it readily available to emergency personnel, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, and bill LD 1547 would’ve brought Maine in line with a majority of states. The bill came about after national pharmacy, CVS, requested the bill in response to a letter from U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) asking the chain to expand the availability of the antidote (Mistler, 2016a). For the most part, LD 1547 enjoyed broad bi-partisan support from legislators, community members, healthcare professionals, medical associations, and public employees and servants. So well-received was the bill, that it was passed “under the hammer” – unanimously without a roll call. LePage was not one of its fans.

Maine, like most other rural areas in the U.S., is in the throes of a growing opioid and heroin abuse epidemic, and this isn’t the first time that LePage has taken a stab (pun intended) at the problem. Earlier, this year, LePage made similarly troubling comments:

“These are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave. Which is the real sad thing, because then we have another issue that we have to deal with down the road” (Fuller, 2016).

The unfortunate result of this type of verbiage is that it tends to lead to further stigmatization, rather than creating any substantive solutions or net positive results. What’s sadder is that the stigma associated with opioid and heroin abuse is so pervasive in our society that those who are also unwilling or unable to read, research, or understand existing research about opioid addiction and abuse have these stereotypes of substance abusers further reinforced in their minds.

Of further concern for LePage is that his veto is likely to be overridden by Maine’s legislature. It is this author’s hope that, along with an overridden veto, the citizens of Maine are treated with a more accurate portrayal of the fight against opioid and heroin abuse and addiction; one that doesn’t portray them as “…addict[s] [with] a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other.”

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Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

 

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