Governor Janet Mills, Director of Opioid Response Gordon Smith, and Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew issued the following statements on the December 2022 overdose report released by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. The year-end report covers the months of January-December 2022.
The report found that, in total, 10,110 overdoses were reported in Maine in 2022, including 716 suspected or confirmed deaths, for a survival rate over the year of nearly 93 percent. For December 2022, 928 people in Maine experienced a drug overdose, with 75 suspected or confirmed deaths.
Nearly 80 percent of confirmed fatal drug overdoses in 2022, according to the report, are attributable to highly lethal non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, either used on its own or in combination with other illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
Drug overdose deaths have increased dramatically across the country due to the increased prevalence of fentanyl, which has accounted for the majority of the nearly 108,000 drug overdoses recorded in the U.S. through August 2022, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“Worsened by the growing presence of deadly fentanyl, the scourge of addiction continues to reach into every corner of our state – rural and urban – robbing us of our friends, family and loved ones and harming our communities, our people, and our future,” said Governor Janet Mills. “My heart breaks with every life lost to a drug overdose, and my Administration will not rest until we reduce this number to zero. We will continue to work with advocates, the recovery community, and lawmakers to tackle this epidemic, to prevent addiction, to help more people access treatment and recovery, and to save lives.”
“We are committed, in partnership with Maine’s remarkable community of recovery advocates and volunteers, to work together to help every person in Maine with substance use disorder enter recovery, find treatment options that work for them, and most important, stay alive,” said Gordon Smith, the state’s Director of Opioid Response. “This opioid epidemic today is more lethal than ever due to illicit drugs like fentanyl, which is responsible for eight of every 10 overdose deaths in Maine. We will use every avenue available to support all Maine people, families and communities affected by the opioid crisis, and bring resources for prevention into every community and school in our state.”
“Working together, we can save lives taken by substance use disorders,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Every day across Maine, people are preventing and surviving drug overdoses and moving forward on a path toward treatment and recovery. But the rising prevalence of deadly drugs like fentanyl is depriving individuals of their lives, families of their loved ones, and our state of its people. Our commitment to combatting this epidemic on all fronts is unwavering, from prevention to recovery and treatment. We want all Maine people to know that help is always available.”
The Mills Administration continues to take significant action to respond to the opioid crisis, expand access to the life-saving opioid reversal drug naloxone, add recovery resources in communities across the state, increase treatment capacity including the number of available beds for medically supervised withdrawal (detoxification), and develop nationally recognized policy solutions to support Maine people with substance use disorder.
Earlier this month, Governor Mills pledged, in her inaugural address, to establish a drug prevention program in every school and community in Maine. Governor Mills has also proposed $237 million in federal and state funds in her biennial budget for behavioral health investments, which includes increased MaineCare rates for mental health and substance use disorder services. This includes an additional $7 million in General Funds for non-MaineCare opioid response, and her Administration continues to engage with the Office of the Attorney General on strategies to invest nearly $200 million coming to Maine from legal settlements related to opioids to fund state, regional, and local responses.
Other actions taken by the Mills Administration include:
- Increasing the purchase and distribution of naloxone in communities across Maine in response to increased numbers of overdoses. Since 2019, the Mills Administration has distributed more than 276,000 doses of naloxone, which has been used to reverse over 7,100 overdoses that may have otherwise been fatal;
- Adding more than 140 new residential treatment beds for substance use disorder from 2021 to 2022, and delivering up to $5.4 million to further expand treatment capacity by helping behavioral health providers increase the number of patients they serve;
- In 2022, expanding Maine’s “Good Samaritan” law, first signed by Governor Mills in 2019, which encourages individuals to call for life-saving assistance when someone at their location is experiencing an overdose;
- Creating the OPTIONS program, which has placed response teams in each Maine county to engage with individuals to promote drug prevention and harm reduction strategies, connect people to recovery and treatment, and distribute naloxone;
- Providing health insurance coverage through MaineCare expansion to over 100,000 Mainers with over 22,000 individuals receiving treatment for substance use;
- Substantially increasing rates for providers of substance use services, with increases implemented in 2020/2021 of 77 percent;
- Recruiting and training of over 1,000 recovery coaches.
For information about substance use disorder support and resources, call 211, text your zip code to 898-211, email info@211Maine.org, visit the Maine 211 website, or visit the website of the OPTIONS program at http://www.knowyouroptions.me