Governor Mills: It is Time to Mobilize Maine State Government to Stem the Tide of the Deadly Opioid Epidemic

Good morning, I am Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.

In the past five years at least one thousand six hundred thirty people in Maine have died from drug overdose – more than the population of Chesterville, or Eastport or North Berwick.

418 in 2017 alone – more than one a day.

You know, these people are not “junkies.” They are our neighbors, our co-workers, family members, school mates, graduates of our high schools, our CTEs, our universities and colleges.

They are our sons and daughters. They are people without labels, citizens without stereotype.

History will note that we have lost an entire generation of people to the opioid epidemic and that we have simply failed to address this preventable disease.

It is time to mobilize Maine state government to stem the tide of this deadly epidemic.

As Attorney General, and as a candidate for this Office, and now as a newly sworn Governor, I promised to take action to address the opiate problem.

I’ve said before that as Governor I would make sure there was one person whose sole responsibility would be to flesh out what is working and what is not, to draft a blueprint for change and to report to me every day, every week about our progress.

So I have appointed Gordon Smith to be that person.

Gordon Smith has been Executive Vice President of the Maine Medical Association, he is former Chair of the American Society of Medical Association Council. He has held many other high-ranking positions.

He is an experienced, well-respected, and highly qualified public health expert.

As the Director of Opioid Response, I have complete confidence in his ability to work across departments and to knock down the silos that have prevented us from combating this crisis and protecting Maine families.

Gordon Smith will work closely with medical providers, treatment experts, law enforcement, educators and community members to figure out what is working, and what is not, and determine the concrete steps we can take to change things around.

I think it is time for action. And that that action should begin right now.

Gordon will convene a Prevention and Recovery Cabinet to include all of our commissioners and the Attorney General, in consultation with legislative leaders and will determine our needs and coordinate an effective and prompt response.

And within the next two weeks, with input from Gordon Smith, and our new commissioners Jeanne Lambrew, Michael Sauschuck, Randall Liberty and others, I will issue an Executive Order to direct the specific steps we will take to address this crisis.

Among other things, we will be partnering with hospitals and treatment providers, with jails and community members to increase access to Medication Assisted Treatment, increase availability of life-saving naloxone, to promote effective education and prevention measures, to establish a robust hotline that works and take traffickers off our streets.

In my Inaugural Address, I spoke directly to Mainers suffering from substance use disorder.

I speak to them again and to their loved ones when I say, you are not alone.

You have my word. Wherever you are, we will do everything in our power to bring you back to make our communities, our families and our state whole once again.

We will confront this epidemic together.

I am Janet Mills, governor of the state of Maine.

Thank you for listening.