AUGUSTA – The Trump administration’s top health official will be in Augusta on Wednesday as part of a national tour focused on the ongoing opioid crisis.

Dr. Tom Price, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is slated to meet with Gov. Paul LePage and other stakeholders Wednesday morning for a “listening session” at the State House. An advisory sent out by Price’s office on Tuesday afternoon said the gathering will include representatives from the recovery community, drug treatment specialists, law enforcement officials as well as family members of those struggling with addiction.

“Secretary Price and the Trump Administration understand that it is state and local policymakers, advocates, first responders, treatment centers, faith based organizations, good neighbors, and many more who have responded to help their communities in this time of great need,” reads the advisory. “With this in mind, Secretary Price will participate in a listening session with representatives from these groups to learn about how the federal government can best support local initiatives and hear what is working and what is not.”

Maine averaged more than one drug overdose death per day in 2016, with the vast majority attributable to heroin, fentanyl or other prescription opiates. While the state has allocated additional resources to drug treatment as well as law enforcement, experts say demand for treatment still far outstrips availability, especially for those without health insurance.

President Trump pledged to address the opioid crisis repeatedly during his campaign, especially during campaign swings in Maine and New Hampshire, both of which have been hard-hit by the drugs. But the Trump administration has been criticized by some for its early approach to the crisis. For instance, a draft internal memo reportedly obtained by CNN suggested that the administration was considering cutting the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by more than 90 percent in order to streamline the organization and eliminate duplicative programs offered by other agencies.

LePage’s communications office did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for a list of participants in Wednesday’s “listening session” with Price. LePage has met with Price several times during trips to Washington, D.C., to discuss health care and welfare programs.


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