At the height of the pandemic, people were unable to connect safely with their community. This fact alone had particularly deadly consequences for people suffering from substance use disorder here in Maine and across the country.
While the pandemic waxes and wanes, we are still losing people with substance use disorder every day.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
This week, I held my fourth annual Opioid Response Summit, with the theme of “Community, Connection, Compassion,” to reflect on this ongoing epidemic and to recommit to saving lives and to supporting life-long recovery.
You know, this is not a white collar or a blue-collar epidemic. It is not a rural problem, or an urban problem or a suburban problem. It knows no boundaries, no zip code, no tax status. It knows no age limits. And sometimes it is multigenerational. And it is more deadly now, because of the kinds of drugs, like Fentanyl, that are being infused in other drugs as well.
But it is the children that I worry about the most. And it is the children who ought to stir us to action.
The headlines tell the story:
A young child whose teddy bear was contaminated with Fentanyl.
A three year who ingested heroin and had to be revived with Narcan.
An 11-month old infant exposed to Fentanyl.
A 14 year old who died — overdosed and died — a few weeks ago, a day after her graduation from middle school. A straight A student.
If these aren’t wake-up calls, I don’t know what is.
Whatever the causes – and they are multiple and they are terribly complicated – let’s not pass this problem on to another generation.
Not now when we now have the means to address it – and the will to act.
To stop drugs from reaching Maine, we have focused on disrupting mid-level and higher level drug traffickers. Last year alone, Maine DEA agents seized nearly 23 pounds of Fentanyl all over Maine. So far this year, they have seized about 16 pounds of Fentanyl and 48 kilograms of Methamphetamine, equally dangerous.
We will continue to support law enforcement’s efforts to stop drug trafficking, but we are also focused on preventing addiction, on expanding treatment, and supporting the life-long recovery of people with substance use disorders.
That’s why for the last three years we have been training people to become recovery coaches, help people turn their lives around. As well as getting hundreds of thousands of doses of Narcan out into the communities to save people from deadly overdoses and then give them the help they need.
This session, we worked with the Legislature to invest more than $110 million through the biennial budget, this was a bipartisan move. We invested in new prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.
And this week, I committed to investing another $4.5 million dollars for new treatment beds all across Maine.
There is no denying that things have been very challenging these last two years, but I firmly believe that without the actions taken by this administration, we would have lost many more people to this epidemic.
We can’t be discouraged. We cannot lose heart.
We won’t quit – and I will not quit – until every child in Maine has a chance for health, security, and stability; until every person in our state is able to become their best selves – the best that they can be productively, whatever their past, whatever their troubles, whatever their needs.
We have a long way to go toward healing our state, and helping our nation heal, and getting people back into the workforce; but there is hope and there is the hard work of Maine people, which has seen us through hard times before.
That is why we are recommitting to our sense of community – a community in Maine who cares and who never gives up. Because that is who we are.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.