U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, left, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, center, and Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to President Trump, conduct a meeting to discuss the state’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at the State House in Augusta. The meeting includes relatives of those struggling with addiction as well as representatives from the recovery community, drug treatment specialists and law enforcement officials.

AUGUSTA — President Donald Trump’s top health lieutenant came to Maine on Wednesday with Kellyanne Conway, the Republican president’s controversial adviser, to discuss the opiate crisis with Gov. Paul LePage and more than a dozen law enforcement, health, treatment and other officials.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s listening tour kicked off last month, after the Trump administration announced $485 million in grants to states and territories to increase prevention, treatment and recovery services. Of that, $2 million will go to Maine.

Price said one of Trump’s top priorities is to “turn the tide” on opiate addiction.

Maine had more than one drug overdose death per day in 2017, a record high driven by rises in deaths that were attributed to fentanyl and heroin. In his opening remarks, Price called opiates a “scourge across this nation.”

“The president has made one of his top priorities to make certain that we turn the tide on this,” he said. “At this point, we have been losing the battle.”


However, the administration is facing questions on its anti-addiction policy after a memo obtained by the Washington Post said Trump is considering effectively eliminating the Office of National Drug Control Policy by slashing its budget by 95 percent.

Price’s visit also comes at a crucial time for Republicans as they try to change national health care policy. Republicans in Congress used Maine’s 2011 health care reform law as a model for the American Health Care Act, which passed the House last week and would replace the Affordable Care Act.

Price and LePage were expected to take questions from reporters after the roundtable, which convened around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Reporters were only allowed to observe the roundtable during the introductions of LePage, Price and Conway.

Maine confirms first death from powerful opiate carfentanil

AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine has confirmed its first death from powerful opiate carfentanil.

The state attorney general’s office said Wednesday the death happened last month in York County. Further details aren’t being released.

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning last fall about the drug, which is about 5,000 times more powerful than heroin, and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

The drug is used by veterinarians to tranquilize elephants and other large animals, and its presence creates another problem in a state dealing with an epidemic of heroin and opioid overdoses.

Maine set a record for drug deaths in 2016 with an average of more than a death a day.

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