Preventing Overdoses and Saving Lives

Earlier this week, my Administration recognized International Overdose Awareness Day.

We rededicated ourselves to preventing overdoses from claiming the lives of more people in Maine.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

More than 5,000 overdoses have been reported in Maine this year through the end of June. Three hundred of those overdoses were deadly. As very troubling and unacceptable as that number is, the number is also a slight decrease from the same time period last year.

But these tragic deaths are driven by the ever-increasing prevalence of fentanyl, the highly lethal, highly addictive synthetic opioid, that is often present in other drugs consumed by unknowing users. In Maine, as in the rest of the nation, fentanyl is not only the leading cause of overdoses, it is responsible for 80 percent of all drug deaths.

Alarmingly, six percent of fentanyl overdose deaths in Maine last year included xylazine as well — that’s an animal tranquilizer that can cause horrible, painful wounds on your skin and even amputations of limbs of your body. The number of fentanyl overdose deaths with xylazine has increased, and unlike fentanyl, there is no reversal medication for xylazine. It is a killer.

The abundance of fentanyl and other drugs like xylazine is stealing away the futures of people across our state, including children and young adults.

These new drugs new have changed the epidemic of substance use disorder. But as a result, our work to stop it has changed too.

Using $260 million in funding for behavioral health and substance use services in the state budget, we’re focusing on stopping deadly drugs from getting into Maine in the first place; on preventing drug overdoses and reversing drug overdoses to save the lives of Maine people; on expanding treatment and recovery programs, especially in rural areas; and on preventing people from using drugs in the first place.

How are we saving lives?

  • Well, we’ve trained hundreds of recovery coaches and we’ve opened more than a dozen recovery centers in rural and urban communities across Maine.
  • We’re hiring more peer outreach workers, who have already done more than 200 trainings to communities across the state. They’ve distributed hundreds of naloxone kits, which saves lives. They’ve served nearly 600 people, including transporting people to detox, treatment, or sober living facilities.

Our goal is to prevent overdoses, but we’re also making sure bystanders can reverse overdoses to save a person’s life, so we can help put that person back on the path to a productive life again.

  • So, we’ve increased our distribution of Naloxone, the lifesaving drug, by 25 percent, 25,000 doses actually, statewide. And since 2019, we’ve reversed more than 8,000 near deadly overdoses in this state.
  • We enacted a new Good Samaritan law to encourage bystanders to call for help when someone is overdosing while still preserving law enforcement’s ability to arrest drug traffickers and violent offenders.
  • And we’re buying and distributing xylazine test strips to people who need them. People need to know before they consume the most deadly drug out there.

My Administration will continue to do all we can to save lives because we know that recovery from substance use disorder is possible. Maine needs every person in our state to reach their full potential.

If you’d like to get involved with our response to the opioid epidemic in Maine, or if you need resources for yourself or your loved ones, please visit www.KnowYourOptions.ME.

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.