It’s hard to think of an issue that had more bipartisan support heading into the first session of the 128th Legislature than the fight against opiate addiction. Yet with the session all but over, it’s clear that nothing of real substance is going to get done. Meanwhile, the epidemic is killing more than one Mainer a day, and only growing more dire.

That, unfortunately, is in keeping with how Maine has handled the opiate scourge for five years, made all the more frustrating by just how clear the evidence is by now that not enough is being done – we’ve had record overdose deaths every year since 2013, with 376 last year, a nearly 40 percent increase over 2015.

Those numbers should have been shocking enough to make opiate addiction a priority heading into the legislative session. However, of the approximately 30 bills submitted on the subject, only a few got any traction at all, and no initiatives matching the magnitude of the problem were passed.

That lack of scope and imagination has been a problem since opiates began killing Mainers at a record pace. Legislators who saw the clear need for more treatment options have run up against those who, with the backing of Gov. LePage, have favored punishment for people suffering from addiction, and who have fought against proven medical remedies.

In the latest session, Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough, proposed $6.6 million in each of the next two years to expand treatment availability, as well as the creation of a “hub-and-spoke” treatment model that has been successful in Vermont in shepherding people toward the right kind of care.

But both proposals were carried over to the next session, and neither will be approved until 2018 at the earliest, if at all.

Even a seemingly common-sense measure to reverse cuts to the Maine-Care reimbursement rate for outpatient addiction treatment – cuts that have severely restricted the availability of treatment – failed to find enough support. Waterboro Republican Sen. David Woodsome’s bill will likely die for lack of funding; despite all the talk, there is simply not enough will to spend money on addiction.

While the Legislature has been unable to find consensus on this public health crisis, LePage has been feckless and stubborn. There was a ray of hope when his administration backed an additional $5.4 million for medication-assisted treatment. That was a good start for a state so far behind in that area, but LePage now says it is more than enough, all evidence to the contrary.

Since then, he’s stood in the way of almost any progress.

His Department of Health and Human Services testified against many of the addiction-related bills as “unnecessary.” He continues to argue that anyone in Maine who wants treatment can find it, even though every expert in the field says otherwise.

And his administration has been achingly slow to clarify laws legalizing the sale of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone over the counter at pharmacies and creating community-based recovery centers.

He even refused to participate in or share information with a legislative task force, showing how committed he is to his own strategy, one that has resulted only in more death and suffering from addiction.

But the Legislature doesn’t have to follow his lead. Instead, they should listen to Rosanna Boyce, a 31-year-old Lewiston resident who became addicted to heroin at 18 but has now been sober for 10 years, and who knows the treatment community intimately: “This crisis is getting worse, not better. And what we’re doing isn’t working.”

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