April 29 marked a day of victory for our nationwide recovery community. While Young People in Recovery’s Justin Luke Riley was being honored alongside Chief Campanello (Gloucester MA’s PAARI program) as one of ten White House Champions for Change, Maine’s Legislature was busy overriding a Gubernatorial veto, passing LD 1547 into law. The legislation, “An Act to Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride”, expands access to Naloxone (name brand: Narcan), an immediate opioid reversal medication, to pharmacies across Maine. Naloxone has been safely used in hospitals for nearly forty years. It is less toxic than water and is safer than an Epi-pen. Side effects for accidental administration may include and are regulated to mild nausea and headaches.
When the bill was first presented, it passed through both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by the Governor. It was at that point that YPR’s Maine chapters, the Health Equity Alliance, Maine Peoples Alliance, members of both the law enforcement and medical communities, and countless others mobilized in an attempt to achieve an override of Gov. LePage’s veto. Our efforts were successful; upon reconsideration, the Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override the veto: the Senate voted 29-5; the House voted 132-14. When the law goes into effect in 90 days, Maine will join the ranks of 22 other states with similar laws.
Some members of the legislature supported this bill from the get-go while others changed their mind to a position of support just in time for the override vote. Representative Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, commented on his vote, “I’m a pro-life person. How could I possibly take the chance for somebody to live away from them?”
Bill sponsor Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, said in a statement, “This bill has always been about one thing: saving the lives of Maine people suffering from addiction. I was so pleased to see the Senate reject Gov. LePage’s belief that these Mainers are out of reach. Narcan saves lives, and making it more broadly available means more of our fellow citizens will have a second chance to get on the road to recovery.”
Maine’s recovery community hopes that this vote continues to pave the way for the remainder of the states in the Union to expand Naloxone access through local pharmacies.
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