What if LePage is right about needing more drug enforcement agents?

1. How to reform welfare.

2. How to reform taxes.

3. How to refuse to bolster health care infrastructure by not expanding MaineCare.

4. How to handle his concerns about the Land For Maine Future program.

5. How to work with others by using threats and ultimatums.

6. How to represent the great state of Maine.

This is just a short list of the things that I think Governor LePage is flat out wrong about. Every time I go to write something that may be in at least partial agreement with him, I feel like I need to clarify that I did not vote for him, nor do I support his conduct or most of what he says and does.

But I do support people in law enforcement, corrections and criminal justice who have been forced to be on the frontline of a couple major social issues in the last couple decades.

They’ve had to clean up after failed community services in the wake of deinstitutionalization in mental health, and they’ve been in the trenches fighting back against the opiate epidemic long before it garnered the political and medical attention it warranted.

And they’ve been learning to innovate as traditional systems failed these populations, especially when it comes to the addiction epidemic. There are drug courts and all the drug and behavioral programming State Prison Warden Randall Liberty developed at Kennebec County Jail, like Criminogenic Addiction Recovery Academy and the Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest.

So I’m worried that they may really need more drug enforcement agents, but that genuine need is falling victim to anti-LePage bias.

Nearly 100 grams of heroin, shown here packaged into "fingers," were seized by police as part of a drug bust Nov. 21, 2015, in Bucksport. (Maine Drug Enforcement Agency photo.)

Nearly 100 grams of heroin, shown here packaged into “fingers,” were seized by police as part of a drug bust Nov. 21, 2015, in Bucksport. (Maine Drug Enforcement Agency photo.)

I’ve advocated many times for increased access to treatment and Narcan. I’ve advocated for treating addicts as humans stricken with a deadly disease. However, the law enforcement component cannot be underestimated in its importance.

This is not your mother’s drug war. And the folks selling the stuff that leads to overdoses don’t care that people are overdosing; they’ll continue selling it anyway, and they are the ones Maine Drug Enforcement wants. I can’t imagine being a Maine Drug Enforcement agent right now. The pressure must be tremendous.

Every overdose is a supplier that Maine Drug Enforcement didn’t shut down in time. Like the two in Biddeford.

I also think our congressional delegation needs to get involved. The harsh reality is that this is an interstate issue and should be getting more federal attention and support. Many of the busts seem to have ratios of something like two out of staters to one Mainer.

I’ve compared trying to stop drug mules from running up I-95 to playing Whack-a-mole, and that’s where the feds need to be more responsive. As long as heroin gets in the country, there will always be someone willing to make the run. Mainers end up footing the bill and burying the dead.

The federal government also needs to address the issue of what to do about all the marginalized youth along the eastern seaboard who see being drug mules as a viable existence.

It’s so complicated.

I wish we were in a more stable political climate. In my mind I can imagine a governor who goes to the Legislature and says, “I get it. We need to do more about treatment, but at the same time, we’ve got people dropping like flies, and we need to stop the dealers killing them.”

Then the legislators say back, “Okay. We’ll find some more funds for law enforcement if you agree to support a couple ways to expand treatment access.”

Then they could draw up the details and do a press release celebrating the collaboration. Which brings me back to the list — item No. 5 to be exact. So much for wishing.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.