Yesterday, the Maine House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of LD 1686 – a bill that would expand access to the life-saving opioid antagonist, Naloxone (also known as Narcan). If passed, LD 1686 would allow first responders, police and family members of someone at risk of an overdose to possess and administer Naloxone.

Recently, Maine has seen a tragic rise in deaths related to opioid overdose.  More Mainers die every year from drug overdose than car crashes– in 2012, 163 people died due to a drug-related overdose right here, in our home state.

Naloxone when administered in time can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose by preventing the life-threatening depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems. This allows an overdose victim to breath normally, buying time to seek medical attention. In a rural state like Maine, this time is particularly crucial. 

Naloxone is safe, non-addictive and only works if a person has opioids in their system; the medication does not produce a high and has no effect if opioids are absent. For more information about Naloxone: click here to read the testimony of Dr. Richard Fein of the Maine General Medical Center and here for the testimony of the Maine Medical Association. Additionally, click here to read an excellent op-ed written by Jeffrey S. Bark M.D., president of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, and Guy Raymond, M.D., president of the Maine Medical Association endorsing and urging the passage of LD 1686.

Across the country, pilot programs that distribute Naloxone have been proven effective in reducing overdose deaths. So effective in fact, that the White House drug policy office is urging all first responders to carry Naloxone and the Food and Drug Administration have held hearings on making it available over the counter. 17 states currently have legislation allowing public access to Naloxone on the books, with bills to increase access pending in 7 states.  

In February, the Maine Joint Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on LD 1686.  We heard powerful testimony from a diverse group of stakeholders, about the importance of expanding access to Naloxone here in Maine – from family members who had lost loved ones to doctors and community health providers, to law enforcement and advocacy organizations

We were so pleased to see the legislators in the Maine House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported the bill. We were then equally disappointed to hear of the Governor’s plan to veto it – accusing the legislature of “playing political games with people’s lives” for introducing an amendment that would expand access to include law enforcement (ironically a proposal introduced and supported in committee by members of his party).

LD 1686 is not about partisan politics; it is about smart government policy. People in Maine are dying in increasing numbers, and many of the deaths are preventable. Yesterday, members of Maine’s House recognized this and reached across party lines to unanimously support LD 1686. Now we are calling on members of the Maine Senate to do the same. To find your Senator’s contact information please click here. 

We are also calling on the Governor to reconsider his position and recognize the importance of this bill becoming law. To contact the Governor’s office please click here.  

Naloxone is a simple, cost effective means to save dozens of Maine lives each year. We encourage all our senators and the Governor to follow the Maine House of Representatives in recognizing that this is not a partisan issue. LD 1686 is about saving Maine lives.