LEWISTON — Republican Gov. Paul LePage declined Monday to apologize for comments he made about a Deering High School student repeatedly being treated with the heroin antidote Narcan.

Senate Democrats have asked LePage to apologize for comments he made at a town hall meeting in Lewiston earlier this month. The governor had said that a junior at the Portland school overdosed three times and was three times given the antidote. He said on the third overdose, the student simply returned to class following the administration of naloxone hydrochloride, known by its brand name, Narcan.

LePage said on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s radio show “Maine Calling” that the story was not “fabricated.” He said a school resource officer relayed the information to him and a police chief was in the room during the conversation.

Lawmakers remained unsatisfied.

“Two weeks ago, the entire (Portland) delegation sent Gov. LePage a letter, urging him privately to set the record straight and apologize,” according to a news release issued by Maine Senate Democrats on Monday. “Since then, the governor has remained silent. He has not owned up to his lie or responded to the letter.” 

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said Deering “doesn’t deserve to have its reputation maligned by the highest elected leader in our state. The governor owes it to our community to set the record straight. Donald Trump may double down on his lies when confronted with the truth, but we can’t sit by while Gov. LePage makes up hurtful stories about our community.”

Alfond is the outgoing Senate minority leader.

School officials, including the principal and superintendent of the Portland school system, have disputed LePage’s account of the incidents and say no student was ever given a heroin antidote at the school.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck on Monday told the Bangor Daily News that he believes LePage is confusing Deering High School with Deering Oaks, a park in the city. 

LePage said Sauschuck was “in the room” when the statements were made about the teen’s overdoses at the school.

But Sauschuck said LePage was likely referring to a graduation ceremony last year for an organization called SEALSfit where LePage had a conversation about heroin abuse with Deering High School Resource Officer Steve Black.

Sauschuck, who said he has discussed the situation with Black more than once since LePage began telling the story in public, said Black referred to an overdose in Deering Oaks Park, not Deering High School.

“From (Black’s) perspective, at no time was he ever talking about youth, kids or Deering High School,” said Sauschuck, who added that in his 19 years in Maine law enforcement, he had never heard of a heroin overdose in a public school.

LePage has referenced drug overdoses among Deering High School students during at least two of his weekly town hall meetings, in Damariscotta and Lewiston.

So far, LePage has not offered any public apology.

“It’s another example of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim,’” said Rep. Erik Jorgensen, D-Portland, whose district includes Deering High School. “I can’t imagine how the governor came up with this story about our students and our high school. This didn’t happen, plain and simple. He should check his facts. But more than that, he owes the hardworking students and faculty of Deering an apology.”

LePage said on “Maine Calling” that he knew of one situation in which a Deering student overdosing on heroin was taken by LifeFlight medical helicopter to Maine Medical Center, “and he survived.”

Thomas Judge, the executive director of LifeFlight of Maine, the state’s only emergency airlift service, said over the organization’s 18-year history it has flown numerous high school students from high schools.

Judge said federal patient confidentiality laws prohibited him from disclosing what those students were transported for but that it was “usually because of an injury.”

Without apologizing to Deering High School, LePage went on to say he was sure there were drugs in Maine schools. “You can ask for all the apologies in the world, but let’s make sure we keep our kids alive,” LePage said.

He earlier in the show suggested that the U.S. Attorney General’s Office should investigate the problem of drugs in Maine’s public schools.

He later said it would be a local issue as to whether schools wanted to provide Narcan to students.

“I assume that school nurses have Narcan already,” LePage said in response to a caller who asked if he would support school nurses having Narcan.

“Our school system is a local control system,” he said. “All EMS, nurses, medical professionals, all are entitled to have it, so if the schools don’t do it, that’s a school decision, not a state decision.”

In a message to the Sun Journal, LePage’s press secretary Adrienne Bennett shared Emergency Medical Services data showing that in 2015 at least 10 people under the age of 18 were administered Narcan while another 100 Mainers between the ages of 18 and 24 were also given the antidote in 2015.

“Some of these 18-year-olds may be high school students,” Bennett wrote. “This is a problem. It is very concerning to our governor that our youth are being administered Narcan shots. This is the story. And please note, these are only EMS statistics, which only indicate part of the problem. This data does not include shots given by family members, doctors or anyone else.”

Bennett said the press was too focused on “he said, she said” stories and not on the actual substance of Maine’s drug problem.

Christopher Cousins of the Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.

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