Citing Drug 'Epidemic,' Maine's Governor Wants More Judges, Agents

In his Feb. 4 "State of the State" speech, Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage said 927 drug-addicted babies were born in Maine last year -- representing more than 7 percent of all births.

Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage's "State of the State" speech Feb. 4 highlighted his plans for lower taxes, job creation, and infrastructure improvements, but his remarks about drug use in the state seem to have attracted the most attention. LePage told state legislators, "Finally, we must confront a troubling epidemic. It is tearing at the social fabric of our communities. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs."

He then said 927 drug-addicted babies were born in Maine during 2013, a number that represents more than 7 percent of all births during the year. "Each baby addicted to drugs creates a lifelong challenge for our health care system, schools and social services. The average cost for drug-addicted births in 2009 was $53,000. Welfare programs covered nearly 80 percent of those increased charges," LePage said.

He added that 163 drug-induced deaths occurred in Maine during 2012. "The use of heroin is increasing. Four times as many people died from a heroin overdose in 2012 than in 2011. Over 20 percent of the homicides in 2012 were related to illegal drugs. We must address the problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking. We must act now," LePage said.

He called for fully funding the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) and said he proposes to add four new special drug prosecutors and four new judges to sit in enhanced drug courts in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Portland, as well as 14 MDEA agent positions.

His comments on infrastructure concerned MaineDOT's plan to invest more than $2 billion in improvements during the next three years, repairing or replacing 54 bridges and reconstructing hundreds of miles of state roads.

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