LePage says Deering student overdose story ‘was not fabricated’

Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that he is considering calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate whether Maine schools are being truthful about drug overdoses among students.

LePage’s comment came after days of controversy around previous claims he has made about a Deering High School student overdosing multiple times and being revived with Narcan, an overdose-reversing drug.

“I’m thinking of calling Attorney General Lynch and asking for her investigative arm to come up and look at the school systems in Maine,” said LePage Monday afternoon during MPBN’s Maine Calling radio show. “I think it’s serious enough. I believe it happened.”

Despite Deering High School officials flatly denying LePage’s statements about a student there being revived multiple times, LePage said Monday that he was told the story by a school resource officer and didn’t make it up.

“It was not fabricated,” he said. “This was an actual conversation.”

LePage said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck was “in the room” when the statements were made. Sauschuck said Monday that 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, 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 has never heard of a heroin overdose in a public school in Maine.

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

The governor said Monday that he knows of at least two other Maine students — in eighth and eleventh grades — who have overdosed.

“I know of one situation where a high school kid was airlifted to Maine Medical and he survived,” said LePage. “So they’re in our schools. We can say all we want, that they’re not in our schools and you can ask for all the apologies in the world, but let’s keep our kids alive.”

LePage’s office did not respond to a series of questions posed by the Bangor Daily News, including in what setting he heard the Deering story and which law enforcement officer overheard the comments. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett also declined to answer questions about the two other students, but provided data from Maine Emergency Management Services that showed in 2015, there were at least nine people below age 18 — four females and five males — who were administered Naloxone in 2015. That number does not include shots given by family members or doctors, said Bennett.

The data provided by Bennett showed that the majority of Naloxone doses administered in 2015 by EMS were given to 25- to 54-year-olds, for a total of more than 680 out of a total of 1,027.

Nancy Dube, the Maine Department of Education’s statewide school nurse consultant, said Monday afternoon that schools are not required to report drug overdoses or drug activity to the state or to her knowledge, the federal government.

Dube, the former president of the National Association of State School Nurse Consultants, said Maine is involved in a project with a handful of other states to develop a protocol for the use of overdose-reversing drugs, such as Narcan, that can be adopted by school officials.

“Every state is going to have to tackle this on their own,” said Dube, who said she hopes the guidelines would be complete in the next six months or so.

Asked whether she has ever heard of a serious drug overdose happening within a Maine school, Dube said though that information would come to her only anecdotally, “I have not.”

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.