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July 09, 2018

In Bangor, King and Top USDA Official for Rural Development Discuss Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Rural Maine

BANGOR, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett, Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), and a number of medical professionals, law enforcement officers, advocates and local leaders in a roundtable discussing the opioid epidemic’s impact on rural Maine and ways that federal, state and local governments can come together to stem the epidemic that is killing more than one person per day in Maine. The forum took place at the Gracie Theatre at Husson University in Bangor.

“I’ve held roundtables to discuss the opioid epidemic in communities throughout Maine, and I’ve heard the same thing in each place: ‘we need more help,’” said Senator King. “Today’s visit from Anne Hazlett provided an opportunity for Maine people to voice those same concerns to the administration and make sure that top officials know how much devastation the opioid epidemic has caused – especially in our rural areas, which have unique infrastructure and assets, and as a result, need unique assistance in the fight against this horrible disease. USDA knows how to address challenges in rural communities, and can offer insight and expertise as Maine people seek outside-the-box solutions to fight this terrible disease; I look forward to continuing this dialogue with the agency to find solutions that work for rural Maine people.”

Senator King has made combatting the opioid crisis one of his top priorities in Washington, and last month highlighted the importance of the Affordable Care Act’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions to those struggling with substance use disorders – which is considered a pre-existing condition, so those who seek treatment could then be denied coverage or charged exorbitant rates based on their past substance use. Senator King has convened eight roundtables throughout Maine – from Portland to Bangor to Milo to Paris – to speak with health professionals, first responders, community members, and people in recovery to find ways to help people get better and make Maine communities safer and healthier. He has repeatedly called on Congress and both the Obama and Trump administrations to fund laws and agencies that help address the drug epidemic. In November 2017, he led a letter to the Trump Administration urging additional funding for the opioid epidemic, and in October he joined with a group of colleagues to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act legislation that would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids. Senator King also recently wrote to President Trump urging him to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone.

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