Maine Governor Declines to Sign Nationwide Opioid Compact, Calling it 'Feel-Good Measure'
AUGUSTA, Maine - The nationwide crisis of heroin and opioid addiction has prompted 43 state governors to sign a compact that focuses on the over-prescribing painkillers, access to treatment and a life-saving overdose reversal drug.
But Maine Gov. Paul LePage declined to join the compact, saying the agreement is "simply a feel-good measure promoted by politicians in an election year."
The governor also objected to the compact specifically because it lacked a law enforcement component, according to a written statement from his spokesman, Peter Steele.
Steele said the administration had sought a provision that would promote coordination between state law enforcement agencies. However, the National Governors Association, which developed the agreement, did not include that suggestion.
Steele also said the compact doesn't focus strongly enough on drug-prevention in schools and LePage believes such education should start in elementary schools.
LePage also did not approve of the compact's effort to increase access to naloxone, the drug that can revive someone who has overdosed.
The governor has repeatedly criticized the use of naloxone, saying that it "doesn't save lives, it extends lives" while doing little to treat addicts. His view has drawn widespread condemnation from treatment advocates and law enforcement officials, who argue that lives first need to be saved in order to get a person into treatment.
LePage's objection to naloxone is also not shared by Congress, which, on Wednesday, overwhelming approved sweeping drug legislation that includes provisions to increase access to the revival drug.
The federal bill did contain a law enforcement component, but it was one designed to equip cops with more tools to help addicts. While the federal bill marked a rare instance of bipartisan agreement, Democrats and Republicans still have not agreed on a method to fund the initiative.
This story contains a clarification: 46 governors of U.S. states and territories did sign the compact, but among the 50 U.S. states, 43 governors signed on.