Sen. King discusses strategies to fight opioid epidemic in rural Maine
MILO – U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) visited Milo on Dec. 20 where he met with Police Chief/Town Manager Damien Pickel as well as local volunteers and healthcare providers to discuss strategies to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic in rural Maine. Since assuming the position of chief of police in 2011, Pickel has seen more than a dozen heroin overdoses in Milo — a town of approximately 2,300. In Maine this year, there have already been a record number of overdose deaths.
To combat the opioid crisis, Pickel has helped institute an innovative program that pairs community volunteers with treatment facilities and rehabilitation programs to help those struggling with addiction obtain they help they need. At the discussion with Pickel, Sen. King, who has sponsored legislation to increase the availability of treatment options, learned more about the program and its success in rural Maine.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic has spread into every corner of our state, and it’s often rural towns, like Milo, that are hit hard because they don’t have easy access to treatment options,” Sen. King said. “To address that challenge, the Milo Police Department has adopted an innovative and impressive way to tackle this crisis, keep its citizens informed, and help those struggling with addiction to get the help they need – because when someone needs help, the worst thing we could do is tell them there is none. This program is a positive step forward, and I hope its success can serve as a model for other towns across Maine. Surely we will need to do more, like provide greater resources for treatment and law enforcement – and I will fight for those in the Senate, but I applaud Chief Pickel and everyone in Milo who is playing a role in ending this terrible epidemic in Maine.”
Sen. King has made fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic one of his top priorities in the U.S. Senate, and he has worked to provide greater treatment options for those battling addiction. He has introduced legislation that would expand medication-assisted treatment and eliminate arcane bureaucratic rules that prohibit people from obtaining treatment. Last year, he also successfully called on CVS to provide Narcan, an overdose reversal medication, over the counter so it can get into the hands of those who need it, and he has brought the Obama Administration’s chief drug policy official to Maine to personally hear the stories of Maine people as part of his five roundtables bringing together people from across the state.
Additionally, with the support of Sen. King the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act which included $1 billion – $500 million each year for the next two years – in funding to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. Sen. King had previously pushed Congress to pass emergency opioid funding legislation in the amount of $600 million. Sen. King also supported the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which aims to bolster treatment, recovery, education, and prescription drug monitoring programs.
Sen. King also visited the Harrigan Learning Center and Museum. The facility contains artifacts and fossils from around the world collected by the museum’s proprietors, Tom and Nancy Harrigan, and also has a stocked trout pond on the property. The Harrigans, working with the Three Rivers Kiwanis, developed the center to help educate local children and encourage more visitors to travel to Milo.