As Gov. Paul LePage remains silent on why he is holding up rules that could save lives by making the opioid overdose reversing drug naloxone more widely available, his former top health official said the rules should be approved immediately.

Mary Mayhew, LePage’s longtime Department of Health and Human Services commissioner and a Republican candidate for governor, said she would issue the rules if she were governor.

“As the mother of two boys, I’d want access to this life-saving drug if our family was ever faced with that terrifying situation,” she said in an email late Thursday to the Portland Press Herald. “However, I do agree with the governor, that we can’t continue to avoid the larger issues that are driving this epidemic.”

Mayhew, one of five Republican candidates for the Blaine House, had not responded to the question for more than a week after it was first reported that LePage’s office was delaying approval of rules that would allow Mainers to obtain naloxone. Also known by its trade name Narcan, naloxone has been used thousands of times in Maine in recent years to revive patients suffering from the potentially deadly effects of an overdose from heroin, fentanyl or other opioids.

Maine, like many other states, has been in the grips of a deadly opioid crisis that claimed 376 lives in 2016 and was on pace to take at least that many last year.

Another Republican candidate for governor, businessman Shawn Moody of Gorham, finally issued a statement Thursday but still failed to answer the question of whether he would approve the rules.

“I have partnered with local law enforcement in drug take-back efforts to help fight the abuse of opioids,” Moody said in his statement. “We need to work with our law enforcement community to support their efforts to keep Maine people safe from crime and to fight the opioid abuse problem which has affected so many Maine communities and families. I also believe strongly in supporting peer to peer recovery efforts that have worked so well with organizations like (Alcoholics Anonymous).”

Last week, the three other Republican candidates – Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette – all said they were perplexed by the governor’s delay in approving the rules.

“There should be an explanation why,” Fredette said, “because there is a process that you have to follow through on.”

Mason said even if the governor disagrees with the rules he shouldn’t hold them up.

“We have a crisis in this state and if this is something that can save a life I’m all for it, and if I were governor I would not have waited on rules that have been vetted through the process,” he said.

Thibodeau’s comments were similar.

“We all recognize the epidemic that is facing our state, and we certainly want to make sure we don’t lose even one more Mainer’s life than is absolutely necessary, so hopefully we can get those rules implemented ASAP,” he said.

Joseph Bruno, president of the Maine Board of Pharmacy, has refused to comment, except to claim that the governor must sign off. The pharmacy board unanimously approved rules last August for pharmacists to sell naloxone without a prescription to family and friends of people addicted to opioids.

Bruno owns a chain of pharmacies in Maine and is a former Republican lawmaker who had donated to LePage’s campaigns. Bruno also donated the maximum amount, $3,200, to Moody.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has argued that LePage has no legal role to play in the matter, and she urged the board to publish the rules with or without the approval of the governor, long an opponent of widespread distribution of naloxone.

On Thursday, Democrats held a press conference at the State House to increase pressure on the governor to release the rules and also to call out both Mayhew and Moody for refusing to answer the question.

LePage has been critical of Narcan in the past, saying at one point that it provides drug users with a false sense of security. Advocates, however, say policymakers should be doing everything they can to save lives and encourage people to seek treatment for their addiction.

LePage was asked about the delay in an interview early last week and said, “I don’t know, I don’t know a thing about it.” In follow-up questions, his spokespeople have only said that the rules are “pending.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.