Gov. Paul LePage is getting creative in his handwritten responses to critics.

On Monday, LePage sent House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, a photocopy of what appears to be a wall hanging that reads, “After all is said and done, More is said than done!” It was a response to a lengthy letter that Eves and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, had sent to the Republican governor regarding the state’s response to the growing heroin crisis.

Eves and Alfond were critical of LePage’s law enforcement-heavy focus and urged him to include more discussion of drug addiction treatment at a summit the governor held Wednesday.

“Your (sic) free to have any summit you choose,” LePage wrote beneath the image.

The governor then repeated his argument that enough money is already being spent on treatment. “2014 – $72 million spent on Rehab. – Demand Addressed/Supply Growing” he wrote, before signing his name.

The note is the latest missive between LePage and Eves – two political rivals also arguing against each other in court – and another example of LePage’s penchant for sending handwritten and sometimes acerbic responses to those who disagree with him. Several of those notes have surfaced publicly in recent weeks, even though neither LePage nor his staff keep copies of many of them as part of Maine’s public records law.

Eves’ office said it did not reply to the governor’s photocopied note.

“Speaker Eves and Senator Alfond had sent the governor a serious and lengthy letter to address the drug epidemic in our state and the governor treated it like a joke,” Eves’ spokeswoman, Jodi Quintero, said Thursday. “This is a very important issue for the leadership of the state to be working together on.”

LePage’s office doubled-down Thursday on the message that the prop intended to send.

“If Speaker Eves was serious about addressing Maine’s heroin crisis he would stop talking and start taking action,” LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in a written statement. “He is a leader within the Legislature and has the ability to shape policy. He need not get the approval of the governor to do so. However, Speaker Eves lacks substance and in an attempt to remain relevant he continuously criticizes the governor for taking action. Democratic leadership has failed to address the public safety aspect of Maine’s drug problem.”

LePage held his drug summit behind closed doors Wednesday, although attendees said afterward that both law enforcement and treatment programs were discussed.

The governor’s unusual response to Eves and Alfond, the Democratic leader in the Senate, highlights the different approaches to addressing a heroin crisis that is killing record numbers of people in Maine and across the country.

In their five-page letter to LePage, dated Aug. 24, Eves and Alfond pointed out that attendees of the governor’s upcoming summit were largely culled from the ranks of law enforcement or public safety. The pair then provided several “recommendations for addressing Maine’s drug crisis” that included increasing access to treatment, investing in long-term recovery efforts, improving collaboration between law enforcement and groups on the treatment side, and listening to those in recovery.

“We respectfully urge you and those involved to take a comprehensive approach, bringing substance abuse treatment tools and law enforcement together to address the drug epidemic,” Eves and Alfond wrote to LePage. “While you chose to exclude members of the Legislature, many of our members … are eager to address the crisis in our hometowns. As a citizen legislature, we bring to the table valuable expertise from our personal and professional lives.”

The number of heroin users seeking treatment in Maine tripled from 1,115 in 2010 to 3,463 in 2014, while the number of overdose deaths rose from seven in 2011 to 57 last year. Overall state spending on substance-abuse treatment increased from $57.5 million in 2007-08 to a peak of $76.7 million in 2011-12, then declined to $71.6 million in 2014-15, according to figures from the state Department of Health and Human Services. The Legislature funded part, but not all, of the LePage administration’s requests this year for additional drug enforcement agents.

LePage has said his administration is focused on countering out-of-state drug traffickers and dealers who are providing heroin to users. The administration’s critics, however, argue that substantially more resources are needed to address a treatment gap, especially among Mainers without health insurance.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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