Why Public Health Workers Have to Break the Law in Maine to Help Overdose Victims

February 6, 2018

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has yet to produce the regulations needed to implement a law that passed more than 2 ½ years ago allowing public health groups to distribute free doses of the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

The law, which passed the Legislature in June 2015 and became law without LePage’s signature, authorized organizations that work with “populations at high risk for a drug overdose” to establish overdose prevention programs through which they train drug users and others in administering naloxone, known commonly as Narcan, and distribute it to them at no cost.

Under the law, it’s the responsibility of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules that specify the kinds of organizations that can distribute naloxone, the protocol for establishing distribution programs, and requirements for the training they give before distributing the overdose antidote.

However, more than 2 ½ years after the law’s passage, no such rules have taken effect.

DHHS has not submitted the required rules to the attorney general’s office for a legal review, a required step before rules can take effect, said Melissa O’Neal, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, confirmed there are no rules on file to implement the 2 ½-year-old law. Agencies must file rules with the secretary of state’s office before they can take effect.

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