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House Rejects Bill to Charge Overdose Victims for Narcan

Stephan Savoia
Associated Press

The Maine House has rejected a bill, supported by Gov. Paul LePage, that would allow cities and towns to bill individuals for the cost of using Narcan and similar drugs to revive them during a drug overdose. The preliminary vote was 81-67.

Local police and other first responders would be allowed to bill overdose patients for the cost of administering naloxone under the legislation, which still faces further action in the House and Senate.

Republican Rep. Trey Stewart of Presque Isle is a chief sponsor of the measure. He told his colleagues before the vote that it’s a way to provide relief to more than those experiencing a lifesaving emergency.

“We need to be looking at creative ways to figure out how to not break the backs of these municipal budgets, which are already overburdened,” he said.

Stewart, who works as a firefighter when he’s not serving in the Legislature, said a single dose of the drug can cost $100, and it often takes more than one shot to counter an overdose.

LePage has recommended that only the first shot be free. But Rep. Patricia Hymanson, a Democrat from York and a retired doctor, said the bill would prove to be a burden to towns in the long run.

“Trying to figure out a way to get this bill to somebody who may not have survived, who may not be reachable. How many attempts do you give and what kind of penalty do you ponder if you haven’t received the reimbursement?” she said.

Hymanson said there is no law preventing local cities and towns from trying to recoup the cost of providing naloxone, but she’s skeptical that doing so will generate much in the way of revenue.

The proposal drew strong opposition at its public hearing from the medical community, which argued the bill is punitive and would get in the way of efforts to address the state’s opioid crisis.