MAINE, USA — For the first time, drug deaths in Maine surpassed 700 last year, according to a new Maine Attorney General's Office report.
In 2022, 716 people reportedly died from a drug overdose in the state. In 2021, the number of deaths reached 631. This is the third year in a row the state has set a new record for drug overdose fatalities.
The same data shows there were 10,110 drug overdoses last year and 9,678 the year before.
"They're not surprising," Gordon Smith, Maine’s director of opioid response, told NEWS CENTER Maine. "We can make this better if we do the right thing."
This year, Smith said the state plans to invest more in the strategies proven to prevent drug overdoses like the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan.
"There’s $217 million in the new budget. If it passes, that invests in mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders," Smith added.
When asked whether or not he thinks the state’s plan to combat overdoses is working, Smith said their strategic plan has always been focused on prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support.
"I do think we are making an impact," Kerri Barton, program coordinator for harm reduction services through Portland Public Health, said. "We’re getting naloxone out to the community more and more, and we’re seeing an increase in the number of bystanders who have naloxone on them to be able to save a life."
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is the overdose reversal drug Barton said she and her team are committed to providing to the public for free because it could be the difference between life and death.
Governor Janet Mills reacted to the report and said her heart breaks with every life lost to a drug overdose and went on to say in a statement, in part, "We will continue to work with advocates, the recovery community, and lawmakers to tackle this epidemic, to prevent addiction, to help more people access treatment and recovery…"