Addressing Maine’s drug epidemic requires more than political correctness

Despite a one-year decline in opioid deaths we still have a long way to go

This is Representative Sheila Lyman of Livermore Falls with the Weekly Republican Address. 

Recently it was reported that Maine has seen a 16% decline in opioid deaths since 2022. That is positive.

What you may not have seen is that:

• Despite all the new programs and spending;

• Despite all the new employees in State Government and in the non-profit sector; and

• Despite increased attention on the problem, the number of fatal overdose deaths still remains well above pre-2020 levels.

In 2023, 605 Mainers lost their lives due to drug overdoses.

While this is a drop from 2022’s record 724 overdose deaths, the 2023 numbers are more than double what we saw less than 10 years ago. 272 in 2015.

In the Legislature, common sense proposals to limit the negative impact of so-called “harm reduction” strategies were defeated by activists.

Advocates are more concerned with political correctness and reducing the social stigma of drug abuse than public safety.

We can call it “substance use disorder” or “drug abuse” but it doesn’t change the issue.

We certainly do not want to make it any harder for people to overcome addiction, but just changing labels does not solve the growing problem.

A bill request to reestablish the One-For-One Syringe Exchange requirement was denied in favor of a 100 needle a day distribution limit in 2022.

The bill idea was introduced after one of my colleagues heard from local law enforcement that used needles are frequently discarded on streets, parks, and beaches where kids play.

The idea on again requiring needle collection was denied even the opportunity to have a public hearing.

Republicans strongly support treatment programs, but there needs to be a concerted effort by all of us to encourage people to GET OFF of heroin, by providing the resources and pathways to get clean and stay clean.

The emphasis cannot be on sending addicts to coaches who can teach them how to better manage their lives as an addict and avoid overdosing.

The strategies employed by the Democrats in charge of government are not working.

When the Director of DHHS stepped down at the end of May, Maine was left with a department that simply is not delivering results for Maine people.

While this may be the clearest example of the failures of the current system, others point to the failure to address other pressing problems:

• A bill to increase to 25 years mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of sexual assault or rape against children under the age of 12 and put offenders with previous convictions for similar offenses behind bars for life (LD 1261) was killed in committee.

• Attempts by Republicans to combat the growing number of illegally operated marijuana grows, operated by illegal Chinese Nationals, were squashed, even with evidence that the people working in them are modern day slaves, and the money being made is funding fentanyl distribution and human trafficking activities. (LD 2204)

Drug abuse is an issue that has touched the lives of nearly all Mainers, and it’s time that government starts living up to expectations, or at the very least, admits when it isn’t.

This has been Representative Sheila Lyman with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

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