Bill Introduced to Tackle Maine’s Heroin Epidemic 

John Krinjak

Some lawmakers were back at the state house a day before the legislature reconvenes to introduce an emergency bill to tackle heroin addiction in our state.

Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau Tuesday introduced a $4.8 million bill to address Maine’s growing heroin epidemic.

“We need to make sure we do everything we can to prevent folks from bringing these god awful substances into our state and destroying the lives of our young people,” said Thibodeau.

Proponents of this bill say they hope to address all aspects of the drug epidemic, from treatment to law enforcement.

The bill would provide ongoing funding for ten new DEA agents, grants to local police departments, fund a 10-bed detox center in Bangor, as well as treatment for the uninsured, and beef up substance abuse education in schools.

Public Safety Commissioner John Morris, who says he wasn’t speaking for or against the bill, says out-of-state dealers are driving crime in Maine.

“They’re not our neighbors. They are simply not up here to shop at LL Bean or to buy lobsters. They are here to poison our people,” said Morris.

Baileyville Police Chief Bob Fitzsimmons has watched almost an entire generation get lost to drugs.

“I’ve taken them off the bed, pulled through the needles, and give them CPR while she begs me to give her her son back. It doesn’t work,” said Fitzsimmons.

Those in recovery say treatment services are sorely lacking.

“There isn’t enough of it. People that want to get help, want to get clean, want to get sober, there’s nowhere to send them. So they go back out and use,” said Jeana Coggins of Westbrook, who is in recovery from heroin addiction.

That’s why Bangor officials say that detox center is critical.

“Not every community I’m sure wants to house something like that. We do. We’re anxious to have it. We want it in Bangor,” said Joe Perry of the Bangor City Council.

Though the measure is bipartisan, there were some tense moments here.

Governor LePage opposes the bill, claiming it favors certain companies and is corrupt.

“Oh, it will be vetoed, and not only will it be vetoed, they’re going to have a hard time getting two thirds,” LePage said Tuesday morning on radio station WVOM-FM.

The bill’s sponsors say it wouldn’t raise taxes. The money would come from the general fund.

“The only thing that is not acceptable is to do nothing. The status quo is not going to solve this crisis,” said Maine House Speaker Mark Eves.