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Fortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine wears off, another epidemic – that of overdose deaths – is worsening.
There has been an average of 50 overdose deaths per month this year, according to the Maine Attorney General. That puts Maine on track to have the deadliest year for drug-related deaths.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult in many ways, and this is another example of how it has harmed our state and our people,” said Governor Deaths were attributed to drug overdoses in 2020. So far, deaths in early 2021 are higher than the same period last year.
“As we reflect on those we have lost, let us honor their lives by returning to the scourge of addictions and overdose deaths in our state, preventing addiction in the first place, and increasing access to treatment and recovery options “Added Mills.
We share the governor’s gloomy mood, but we find it hard to be optimistic as the death toll from drug use, especially opioid use, continues to rise at an alarming rate.
Expanding treatment and recovery options – and removing barriers to entry such as cost and stigma – are the right priorities. But they are not the complete solution.
The governor cited hope that a new Accidental Drug Overdose Death Verification Panel to be created as a result of a bill signed by Mills last week.
The Review Panel will examine a selected number of deaths caused by accidental drug overdoses “to recommend methods, including amendment or adoption, to state, provincial and local authorities to prevent accidental drug overdose deaths of laws, rules and guidelines ”. and procedure. “
“As a state, we are committed to doing everything in our power to prevent this trend and its unfortunate impact on Maine families,” said Bill sponsor Rep. Richard Evans of Dover-Foxcroft, a surgeon, in his testimony before the health authority of the legislature and personnel committee. “One way to prevent these deaths is to examine the circumstances in the victim’s life that led to their death and determine if there were, and if so, what options were available to change the course of their life . “
More than 30 states have similar review bodies, so sharing results between states can help develop best practices, Gordon Smith, director of the Office of Opioid Response in Maine, told the committee.
The state has also expanded a program called OPTIONS to connect community members with treatment and recovery services and to distribute the overdose-undoing drug naloxone. Texts can be sent to those who want to know when overdoses are increasing in their communities.
Legislators can take another step by finally approving a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of many drugs. Such a change in law can help divert substance abuse Mainers – and government funds – away from incarceration for treatment.
Taking many different approaches, including better research and community empowerment, is crucial as the drug overdose epidemic shows no signs of subsiding.
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