AUGUSTA, Maine — Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills has signed an executive order aimed at helping the state deal with an opioid epidemic.
Her order Wednesday calls for making the overdose antidote Naloxone more widely available; logging and mapping overdoses to track "hotspots" in real time; implementing medication-assisted therapy programs; and creating targeted prevention programs.
"These actions will save lives. Will help protect children and young adults from the appeal of dangerous drugs, and ensure Mainer's suffering from substance abuse disorders in our emergency rooms, in our jails, on our streets, find the resources they need now to recover and rebuild their lives," said Governor Mills.
More than 1,600 people have died in Maine from drug overdoses over the past five years, and people were dying a rate of more than one a day in 2017.
Mills made addressing the crisis part of her campaign for governor.
She already appointed an opiate response director, Gordon Smith. And Corrections Commissioner Randy Liberty wants to introduce medication-assisted therapy that includes anti-craving prescriptions to address substance use disorder in the prison system.
Smith will lead a Prevention and Recovery Cabinet that will work with multiple state agencies in efforts related to the epidemic.
"It's a down payment. It's things we can do right now that will save lives and start the process of getting more treatment facilities," said Smith.
Also as part of the executive order, there will be increased access to medication and treatment inside of the Maine Department of Corrections.
"If we can provide substance abuse counseling and medicine-assisted treatment while they're in, I think they can transition into the community much better," said Department of Corrections Commissioner Randy Liberty.
Senate and House Republicans issued a joint statement Wednesday regarding Mills' executive order:
"There are no parties when it comes to addressing Maine’s opioid crisis. Legislative Republicans commend the Governor for using a number of recommendations from last summer’s bipartisan Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in Maine. That task force, comprised of lawmakers, members of law enforcement, the medical community and drug treatment specialists, spent months examining state laws regarding law enforcement, prevention, treatment and recovery to better understand the opioid crisis in Maine and develop a plan of action.
"We hope that this will be a dynamic process that includes success matrices to evaluate whether the various components of the Executive Order are effective. We will work collaboratively on this crisis to ensure we maximize the value of every dollar on policies that work while protecting those on the front lines trying to help their neighbors.
"We all have a shared goal of saving lives."