BRUNSWICK — For the last 15 months, I have crisscrossed the 1st Congressional District listening to people talk about their concerns. The heroin problem always comes up – because it touches nearly every Maine family in some way.

As a counselor, I know that drug addiction crosses every socioeconomic boundary, age group and profession. Prescription painkillers offer relief to sufferers of accidents and horrible diseases, but their use can also fuel the flames of drug addiction.

The direct connection is when someone becomes addicted to painkillers, and moves to heroin and other opioids to avoid the misery of withdrawal. The indirect connection between painkillers and heroin addiction is that legitimate patients with prescribed pain medicines can become targets of addicts who will do anything to get their “fix.”

When heroin becomes too expensive or otherwise out of reach for an addict, chronic pain sufferers like cancer patients become targets for criminals. As a result, cancer patients prescribed opioid medications live in fear of home invasions.

I’ve had elderly residents of Biddeford describe the terror of seeing discarded hypodermic needles on sidewalks near their homes, because it means that desperate addicts (who will do anything to get high) are probably watching them.

Also, Maine parents of heroin addicts live in paralyzing fear of that midnight call from police telling them their child was found unconscious and unresponsive, and that Narcan treatments failed to revive him or her.

Maine law enforcement agencies are working tirelessly to stem the flow of street drugs to reduce the supply. Unfortunately, focusing on stopping the supply of illegal drugs seems as futile as trying to bail the water out of Casco Bay with a thimble. To make a meaningful difference in this crisis, the demand needs to be addressed. We need more effective behavioral mental health treatments to augment the medication-assisted treatments commonly used, so people don’t leave treatment and return to illicit drug use within hours or even minutes!

I will provide the leadership in Congress to bring about new research on behavioral mental health treatments for substance abuse. I will push for the development of modern 21st-century treatments to break the disastrous and deadly cycle of substance abuse, rehab and relapse.

Unfortunately, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has been absent without leave on this issue. For example, she signed on to a letter asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate “gun violence” – as if it’s a disease instead of a law enforcement issue.

As a man of science, this is abhorrent to me, because as inanimate objects, guns are no more lethal than spoons or butter knives. But the agenda-driven Ms. Pingree wants to grab at any straw until all guns are confiscated and our citizens are totally pacified. That’s been the socialists’ agenda around the globe, and now they’re trying to equate constitutional gun ownership with a disease. Please!

Actually, she’s got it backward. Violence, using guns or anything else, is a law enforcement issue, not a matter of disease control. Drug addiction, and the demand for heroin, need more disease control. The supply side of illegal drugs is a law enforcement issue, but erasing the demand is the job of mental health professionals.

That makes good sense, doesn’t it? It’s one example of how I will be a transcendent leader in Congress. I’m not a politician and will not look at this or any other issue through the standard lenses used by political establishment types in either party.

In closing, I have a question: When is the last time Ms. Pingree spoke to an unscreened audience in Maine? How many town hall meetings has she hosted? Have you ever seen her in public and had the chance to walk past her entourage and ask her a question?

As your representative, I promise to hold monthly town hall meetings throughout the district. These will be open to anyone, to ask anything of me – and get an honest answer! Please support me in the June 14 primary, and I will replace Chellie Pingree in Congress.

— Special to the Press Herald