Editorial, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017

Not the right solution

A recent proposal by Gov. Paul LePage to require those given more than one dose of naloxone hydrochloride, commonly known as Narcan, to pay for additional doses struck us as bizarre.

According to a summary of LD 1558, the bill “requires municipalities, counties and their agents, including contracted first responders, to recoup the cost of administering naloxone hydrochloride and other opioid antagonists from individuals to whom they administer those medications a second or subsequent time.”

The drug is used to revive people who have overdosed on opioids such as heroin, which killed a record number of Mainers last year.

Addicts, in other words.

Does the governor think a fee is a deterrent? A punishment? Either way, being required to pay for a dose Narcan would probably not change the habits of an addict. The very definition of an addict, according to Merriam-Webster, is: “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively” — addicts can't stop.

We are more concerned the legislation might cause those around someone overdosing to reconsider calling for help, leaving the person to die unnecessarily. Narcan is an emergency revival method, which could result in an addict seeking long-term treatment and eventual recovery.

The bill also calls for a $1,000 fine — per incident — to municipalities that fail to recover the costs of repeated Narcan use from those who overdose. There's no indication how that money might be spent, but fines will be enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the text of bill.

Tracking of Narcan use also would fall to local responder agencies and municipalities, adding an additional and unreasonable burden.

This week, we've written about the carefully considered decision of the Belfast police chief to allow his officers, in addition to local ambulance personnel who already do, to carry Narcan. Since January 2016, ambulance crews have administered 17 doses of Narcan in the Waldo County towns covered by the service — an average of one dose per month. And that number does not include Narcan administered by other sources such as family members or friends.

While Chief Mike McFadden expressed a number of initial concerns, he summed up his decision in a few words: “I am satisfied that this isn’t just a redundant service that we would be providing, that it covers any potential gaps in the service that some people may need.”

Charging people for that service, governor, simply isn't the way to proceed.

Is litter just going to be a thing forever?

Compared with unwieldy big-picture problems like global warming or oceans filled with the bivalve-clogging microbeads of degraded plastic bags, roadside trash seems so quaint. But after decades of environmental awareness and campaigns about how gross it is to chuck trash out your window, it is apparently as bad as ever.

Recently, after collecting two large bags of roadside trash from a short stretch of road outside of the city center, Belfast City Councilor Mike Hurley noted that most of what he found could be traced back to a small number of convenience stores and fast food restaurants. He went on to say the litter is part of a business model that relies heavily on packaging meant to be disposed of immediately, if not explicitly out the car window on the way home.

Hurley said other municipalities have charged these businesses a flat fee or required them to organize their own roadside cleanups. But he stopped short of suggesting that Belfast do the same. Why?

The city recently showed strong support for an initiative to ban single-use plastic bags at some businesses, and other municipalities are considering the problem. Taking a stand against mountains of fast-food and convenience store garbage seems equally worthy, and as Hurley noted, more effective than trying to catch littering motorists.

 

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