Nationwide leaders cited Maine as a pacesetter in responding to the opioid disaster throughout a state summit devoted to the subject Monday, an accolade that got here in opposition to the grim backdrop of rising overdose deaths.
Maine noticed a 9 % improve in overdose deaths within the first 5 months of 2022 in contrast with the identical interval final yr, in accordance with the state’s month-to-month overdose report, which confirmed three-quarters of these deaths concerned fentanyl. It might foreshadow a brand new excessive after Maine noticed over 600 individuals die from overdoses final yr. U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention information present Maine was within the high 10 states for drug overdoses in 2020.
These challenges have been tied to the isolation and problem in offering providers in the course of the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic underneath Gov. Janet Mills. They current further challenges in tackling an issue that has worsened in Maine and nationally. However nationwide leaders say the state’s data-driven focus and efforts to offer multi-pronged help to individuals in restoration helped form its personal insurance policies and will assist different states deal with the difficulty.
“And that management, what you’re seeing and residing each single day right here in Maine, is what we are going to need to attempt to replicate everywhere in the nation,” stated Rahul Gupta, the director of the White Home Workplace of Nationwide Drug Management Coverage underneath President Joe Biden.
In an interview, Gupta stated he was particularly struck by Maine’s monitoring of nonfatal and deadly overdoses. It demonstrated the necessity to revamp how the nation tracks overdoses, one thing he referred to as for in an article in late June. He additionally highlighted the state’s cell restoration workforce and therapy for incarcerated individuals, in addition to efforts to offer housing, childcare, jobs and meals safety help that helped form his workplace’s drug management technique, he stated.
The state’s monitoring of non-fatal overdoses is important as a result of many individuals who die have lived via previous overdoses, stated Gordon Smith, director of Maine’s opioid response. Maine is ready to report that nicely as a result of it depends partly on its distribution community of naloxone, an overdose reversal antidote, to tell them when a equipment is used and underneath what circumstances. That may assist officers perceive what interventions an individual would possibly want.
In a speech, the governor targeted on her administration’s efforts to fulfill the disaster, pointing particularly to the distribution of 200,000 naloxone doses, a brand new overdose evaluate board, increasing protection underneath MaineCare and her signing of a compromise invoice to increase Maine’s Good Samaritan legislation.
However Mills stated extra will must be executed to totally deal with the issue and introduced a further $4.5 million to construct residential therapy beds for neighborhood suppliers.
“Each life lessened, shortened, diminishes our state,” she stated, referencing the demise of 14-year-old Hannah Flaherty in Eustis final month.
The Democratic governor faces reelection this fall in opposition to her main opponent, former Gov. Paul LePage. The state’s insurance policies and struggles had been criticized by the Maine Republican Celebration, with govt director Jason Savage blaming Mills’ pandemic coverage for the rise in overdose deaths, though they’ve additionally risen nationally over the previous yr. The Maine Democratic Celebration famous LePage had vetoed efforts to increase entry to naloxone, saying in 2016 that the drug doesn’t save lives however merely “extends them.”
Gupta acknowledged the disaster has continued to evolve in ways in which check prevention efforts. Counterfeit tablets that embody artificial opioids are more and more an issue, and the nation wants extra individuals skilled in dependancy therapy to offer assist, he stated.
However the summit additionally targeted on the hope that restoration can convey individuals. Sarah Langevin of Auburn was utilizing medication every day till she turned pregnant. Now a restoration coach at Save A Life Restoration Community, she informed attendees that many in each Maine neighborhood need to see individuals with substance misuse problems succeed.
“Decide up the 1,000-pound phone and ask for assist as a result of I’m so extremely grateful that I did,” she stated.