The LePage administration has released the list of participants at a drug abuse prevention summit Gov. Paul LePage will host on Aug. 26 in Augusta.
The governor has been planning the summit in response to a significant spike in heroin coming into Maine and a rash of recent overdoses. On the list are a mix of state and federal law enforcement and addiction treatment professionals.
“Heroin has hit Maine hard and now we’re starting to see an evolution of heroin,” said Maine Public Safety Commissioner John Morris. “Initially, we are seeing heroin and fentanyl mixed together, but we are now finding many more cases of fentanyl alone. It’s a lot cheaper to produce than heroin. We must identify specific problem areas and seek solutions before we lose more lives.”
Here is the list of participants:
Governor – Paul R. LePage
U.S. Attorney – Thomas Delahanty
Chief Justice, Maine Supreme Court – Leigh Saufley
Attorney General – Janet Mills
State EMS Medical Director – Dr. Matt Shool
Commissioner Public Safety – John Morris
Commissioner DHHS – Mary Mayhew
U.S. Marshal – Noel March
DEA SAC New England – Michael Ferguson
Executive Director MCOP – Robert Swartz
President Maine Sheriffs – Sheriff Joel Merry
President Maine DA’s -Stephanie Anderson
Portland Police Chief – Michael Sauschuck
Chief Customs & Border Patrol – Daniel Hiebert
Colonel State Police – Robert Williams
Colonel Warden Service – Joel Wilkinson
Colonel Marine Patrol – Jon Cornish
Maine Drug Enforcement – Roy McKinney
Medical Examiner’s Office – Dr. Marcella Sorg
Maine National Guard – Brigadier General Gerald Bolduc
President Acadia Hospital – Daniel Coffey
Chairman Bangor Area Recovery Network – Bruce Campbell
Chief Medical Officer Maine General Hospital – Dr. Steve Diaz
While reactions to LePage holding the summit have been in general supportive, there has been concern expressed among some that the summit would be weighted too heavily toward the law enforcement side of fighting addiction with not enough emphasis on the treatment and recovery side. Some have also called for the voice of the addict to be more prevalent at events like this one.
After the list of summit participants was announced, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine criticized LePage for failing to include more treatment experts.
Also of note is that no legislators are listed as participants, despite earlier calls by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, to include lawmakers in the Aug. 26 discussion.
As recently as Tuesday morning during his weekly radio chat with Ric Tyler and George Hale, LePage criticized legislators for thwarting his efforts to increase law enforcement resources to intercept the supply of illegal drugs into Maine.
LePage has been trying for years to hire more prosecutors, investigators and judges to fight drugs. He has also said he would like to use the Maine National Guard to crack down on dealers but has not detailed how he would do so.
UPDATE: In the biennial state budget enacted this year, the Legislature funded up to six new Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigators, two new drug prosecutors, two new judges and two new court clerks. Though there were not as many new positions created as LePage has advocated for, the initiative marks a significant increase in the state’s capacity to fight drug crimes. I did not mention that in an earlier version of this post and I should have.
“We must identify how to best utilize the scarce resources available to combat Maine’s heroin crisis,” said LePage in a written statement Tuesday morning. “I am very impressed by the group of individuals who will be at the table and I anticipate an exchange of information that will help us find solutions to improve the health and safety of all Mainers.”