By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday that he will support a proposal to provide some family members of heroin addicts with access to a drug that helps prevent deaths from overdoses, softening his opposition to the antidote he once said would cause addicts to “push themselves to the edge, or beyond.”

The Republican governor said that after working with lawmakers, he’s introducing an amendment to scale back Rep. Sara Gideon’s original measure and would allow health professionals to prescribe naloxone to family members that have undergone training.

The version introduced by Gideon, a Democrat from Freeport, would allow family members and caregivers of addicts to be prescribed the drug and let more medical personnel, police and firefighters to administer it.

LePage said he also wants to ensure that abusers who don’t want the antidote applied to them have the ability to refuse the treatment.

The governor’s administration initially opposed Gideon’s original bill and vetoed a similar one last year, saying it could provide false sense of security that abusers are somehow safe if they have a prescription nearby.

On Wednesday, LePage reiterated his concern with providing too many people access to the drug designed to prevent addicts from overdosing on heroin or powerful painkillers called opioids.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate with liability issues to just open it up and say, ‘Be a drug addict and … we will have everyone on the street have a little pen so if you croak, we will inject you,” LePage told reporters.

Gideon said she appreciates the governor’s move to expand access to family members, but said she’s disappointed that his proposal leaves out law enforcement officials who are often the first to arrive at the scene of an overdose, particularly in rural areas.

Gideon said the House could take up the bill as early as Thursday.

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