Currently showing posts tagged drugs

  • 272 People died of a drug overdose in Maine in 2015 – 31 percent jump

    Maine has recorded another grim record due to drug overdose deaths.  272 people died in Maine in 2015 due to drug overdose, a 31% increase over 2014, which saw a record 208 overdose deaths.  The final analysis of drug overdose deaths exceeded initial estimates largely due to an increase in deaths caused by heroin and/or fentanyl in the second half of the year. 

    “These figures are shocking,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills.  “Maine averaged more than five drug deaths per week.  That is five families every week losing a loved one to drugs.  These are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, our neighbors, our friends.  I applaud the families who have come forward to share their stories about the struggles they have endured in watching a loved one succumb to addiction and the pain it has caused."

    In 2015, 157 deaths were caused by heroin and/or non-pharmaceutical fentanyl and 111 were caused by pharmaceutical opioids.  Overdose deaths in 2015 caused by illicit drugs exceeded overdose deaths due to pharmaceutical opioids for the first time, even though the number of deaths caused by pharmaceutical opioids increased slightly as well.  Nearly all deaths were in combination with other intoxicants.

    "Behind every one of these deaths is a story that must be told as a warning to anyone who thinks opiates are a harmless party drug with no consequences. No one is immune from addiction.  No one is immune from overdose. No one is immune from death.  We must use every effort to intervene in these people’s lives before it is too late,” said Attorney General Mills. 

    Two-thirds of the decedents in 2015 from a drug overdose were men.  The ages of decedents ranged from 18 to 89, though most deaths were of those under the age of 60.  The average age of a decedent was 42 (the average age of a Maine resident is 43).

    While all counties recorded at least one overdose death, approximately 78% of the overdose deaths occurred in Maine’s five most populous counties, which account for 65% of Maine’s population.  Cumberland County recorded 32% (86) of the statewide total.  The City of Portland recorded 46 deaths, followed by Lewiston with 15 deaths and Bangor with 13 deaths.

    Comparing the 2014 and 2015 death rate per 100,000 of population for the five largest counties, Cumberland County's rate increased from 15.3 to 30.5, an increase of 100%, Kennebec County increased 65%, Penobscot County increased 30%, Androscoggin County increased 4%, and York County increased 3%. 

    In 2015 there were 107 deaths attributable to heroin; 94 of which included at least one other drug or alcohol mentioned on the death certificate.  Of the 87 deaths attributable to fentanyl or acetyl fentanyl, 68 included at least one other drug or alcohol mentioned on the death certificate.  There were 34 deaths in which cocaine was involved in 2015, up from 24 in 2014.

    “These death statistics are just one measure of Maine’s drug crisis,” said Attorney General Mills.  “More must be done to preserve lives and protect our communities from the negative effects that drug abuse has on us. Prevention, intervention, treatment and law enforcement all must play larger roles in stemming this deadly tide.”


    The drug overdose death analysis was conducted for the Attorney General, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner by Marcella Sorg, PhD, D-ABFA of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. 

  • Bill to Increase Access to Affordable Drug Addiction Treatment Advances

    Committee Vote Unanimous For Higher Reimbursement Rates

      Today, members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee voted unanimously in support of a bill to increase reimbursement rates for substance abuse treatment providers.

    “Methadone treatment is heavily researched and evidence based.  It gets people back on their feet, back to their families, and back to work,” said Speaker Eves (D-North Berwick).  “Providing more sufficient reimbursement to methadone providers will enable more Mainers to access life-saving treatment and regain their lives.” 

    LD 1473 “Resolve to Increase Access to Opiate Addiction Treatment in Maine” sponsored by Senator Woodsome (R-York) passed as amended.

    The report of the HHS Committee partially restores the MaineCare reimbursement rate paid to outpatient opioid treatment providers from $60 to $72 a week. The rate increase will sunset on June 30, 2017 pending a rate study to further analyze its effectiveness. The committee will then hear a report back by the end of December in that year.

    This proposal will lower the burden on treatment providers who will then be able to increase patient access and provide crucial individual and group counseling in addition to critical medication, including methadone.

    “This session alone, we have heard dozens of hours of testimony urging us to increase availability of drug treatment and support services,” said HHS House Chair Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook).  “Increased access to proven Methadone treatment will provide a vital tool to addressing the opioid crisis that has gripped our state.”

    LD 1473 now faces action in both the House and Senate.   

  • The Portland Recovery Community Center needs you

    The City of Portland’s Overdose Prevention Project, Portland Police Department, and Young People in Recovery are pleased to announce their collaboration to assist the Portland Recovery Community Center in providing services to individuals who are in/or seeking recovery.

    They are looking for individuals with an LCSW, LADC or any other independent license to provide no cost counseling to individuals seeking recovery services.

    The Portland Recovery Community Center is offering a safe, confidential place for individuals to seek treatment without a fee. The Portland Recovery Community Center, which opened its doors in January 2012, provides a safe, supported community recovery setting for approximately 3,400 individuals each month. For more information about the Portland Recovery Community Center or to view their calendar, please visit their website at

    For more information about Young People in Recovery, please visit their website at 

    There is no greater time to help our community members in need than now. If you would like to be a part of this grass roots effort, please contact Steve Cotreau at the Portland Recovery Community Center at (207) 553-2575 or or Bridget Rauscher at (207) 874-8798 or

    The Mayor's Substance Abuse Disorder Subcommittee (note the new name) has also begun meeting regularly again, and will meet on the third Thursday of the even months. The next meeting is April 21. Time and location to be announced. 

  • Legislative leaders announce bipartisan $4.8 million plan to combat drug crisis in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    Legislative leaders presented a $4.8 million dollar legislative package to fight the drug crisis in Maine on December 9, 2015. The bipartisan plan includes prevention, treatment and 10 more drug agents.

    The drug crisis is huge in Maine and along with it unwarranted stigmas about addicts.

    The number of overdoses in Maine and the country surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents and gunshots in 2014. In Maine 208 people died from an overdose, of those 57 died primarily because of heroin and 43 because of fentanyl.

    The overprescription of potent narcotics by physicians, mainly because pharmaceutical companies promoted them, inadvertently addicted thousands of people. As doctors corrected the problem, the street supply of prescription narcotics decreased. Unfortunately, a vast supply of cheap heroin, often laced with potent synthetic drugs like fentanyl, replaced those prescription drugs to continue to supply the new demand.

    “Now more than half of my practice time is spent taking care of drug-dependent people. I have witnessed how drug addiction is ravaging Maine… Addicted individuals are not ‘bad people from away.’ They are our parents, our children and grandchildren. They are our friends and co-workers and neighbors. They deserve access to treatment,” stated Dr. Gust Stringos, D.O., of Somerset Primary Care.

    “We’ve crafted a targeted, comprehensive plan that addresses the reality of drug addiction in Maine. We wanted to focus on what was practical, what was possible and what is a good first step toward a healthier Maine,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves.

    The plan invests $2.4 million in treatment efforts over 18 months, including $1 million in funding for a new 10-bed detox unit in Bangor. In addition, the plan increases access to inpatient and outpatient treatment for the uninsured, and doubles the number of peer-to-peer support recovery centers across the state.

    The plan also provides $2.4 million to strengthen law enforcement efforts, including funding 10 new MDEA agents and a statewide coordinator to connect law enforcement to treatment providers.

    If the initiative becomes law funding is included in the bill to launch programs at five police departments around the state to be modeled after the successful Operation Hope, the Heroin- Opiate Prevention Effort, and/or the Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program.

    “This plan will provide critical support to law enforcement on the front lines and enable us to better serve members of our communities who need help,“ said Officer John Gill, who has witnessed the success of Operation Hope as a member the Scarborough Police Department.

    Operation Hope consists of specialized law enforcement training, public education with outreach, and treatment with assistance as well as other services. The program has served over 50 people in its first 50 days.

    Under the LePage administration drug treatment funding has been cut.

    “I fear that more Mainers will have to go without treatment. This year, we saw the flagship treatment program at Mercy Hospital in Portland close for lack of funding,” said Doctor Stringos. “Patients who are lucky enough to get into treatment in Maine usually struggle with the costs. Many young adults have no insurance and do not qualify for MaineCare because of the governor’s refusal to expand the program.”

    Portland parent Julie Lawson, who is currently in recovery, recounted her experience with addiction and the treatment she received from Mercy Hospital’s treatment program prior to its closure. “Because of treatment I’m going to be there to watch my son grow up. I’m living proof that treatment works and that it can save families like mine,” she said.

    The irony, which was not lost on the Cover Maine Now! Coalition is that existing federal resources, with the ACA, would pay for many of the treatment services being proposed with the lawmakers plan.

    “The plan is a good first step, and we are particularly encouraged that Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to find common ground and to move the state forward,” said Ann Woloson, a member of the Cover Maine Now! Coalition. “We also want to remind lawmakers that the most cost effective, comprehensive and efficient way to increase funding for drug treatment would be to accept federal funding to expand access to MaineCare.”

    Gov. LePage has rejected the expansion of MaineCare, which could have happened under President Obama’s free expansion of Medicaid to states, with the Affordable Care Act. As a result about 70,000 Mainers do not have healthcare coverage because of LePage. In addition the state and hospitals would have been able to make money if LePage had just accepted the Medicaid funds.

    State’s that have implemented the ACA have witnessed their economies grow. They also have more drug treatment options.

    “Maine has an opportunity to harness significant resources to address persistent criminal justice issues, including drug addiction and the incarceration of people with severe mental illness who could be better treated outside of prison or jail,” said Woloson. “We hope the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation that lead to this plan can be a building block to providing health insurance to 70,000 Mainers, including comprehensive drug addiction treatment services for those most in need.”

    Speaker Eves and other lawmakers have tried with various bills to expand Medicaid with the ACA but every attempt has met with a veto from Gov. LePage.

    Now the drug crisis is unfolding under his watch and lawmakers that have proposed bills are determined to stem the epidemic.

     “We stand with law enforcement, treatment providers, and parents in saying enough is enough. Over the next legislative session, we will work to implement these and other efforts to help keep our families and communities healthy and safe,” said Speaker Eves. 

     The proposal is on an accelerated track, as legislative committees will hold hearings and work sessions before the full Legislature returns on January 6, 2015.

    The plan joins five other bills approved by Legislative Council last month that address the drug crisis. One bill lawmakers will consider next year would restore MaineCare reimbursement rates, that were cut during LePage’s administration, for methadone providers to 2010 levels.


  • Maine State Rep. Warren appeals decision on transparency for the "fusion center” for new drug programs

     Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, is appealing the Maine Legislative Council’s rejection of her bill to address concerns about the use of the secretive Maine Information and Analysis Center in the state’s battle against drug abuse and trafficking.

    At Gov. Paul LePage’s closed-door drug summit in August, his administration announced that MIAC, one of some 80 so-called “fusion centers” in the country, will be used to counter the state’s drug problems by analyzing drug activity and trends and sharing the information with other law enforcement agencies.  

    Fusion centers were created to combat terrorism after 9/11. Maine’s fusion center, which is overseen by Maine State Police, appears to have no legislative oversight and details about its staffing and budget are not available.

    “We all want to stop drug addiction and at the same time, be mindful of privacy rights of the Maine people,” Warren said.  “I had never heard of MIAC, or the ‘fusion center’ as it’s called. In doing some research, I found little or no information on the group’s authority and oversight.”

    Nationally, fusion centers have come under fire for the misuse of funding, privacy violations and targeting groups critical of their mission.

    “The board charged with overseeing the center hasn’t met in years because when they have, there is little information given to them,” Warren said. “The people of the State of Maine have the right to know how their government is working for them.”

    “My hope is that the oversight board can simply do its job and that find all to be in working order,” Warren said. 

    During even-numbered years, the Legislature generally limits bill submissions to those that address emergencies and other pressing situations. The Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decides which bills fit the criteria. 

    Of the nearly 400 bills submitted for the 2016 legislative session, 33 received the green light from the Council.  The Council will consider all appeals on Nov. 19.

    Warren is serving her first term in the Maine House and is a member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety and the Judiciary Committees.