AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's drug overdose epidemic has yet again broken records.
272 people died in the state in 2015 due to a drug overdose, according to the Office of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills spokesman Tim Feeley. That's a 31% increase over 2014 which saw a record 208 overdose deaths.
NEWS CENTER spoke with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills on Monday.
"Those families, that's 272 families, who lost someone, communities who lost members, every county in Maine lost somebody to drug overdose" said Maine Attorney General Mills.
Of that number -- 157 deaths were caused by heroin and/or non-pharmaceutical fentanyl. 111 were caused by pharmaceutical opioids.
"People from ages 18 to 89, who have died last year, of drug overdoses, in our state alone. this is a tragic figure, and you know, we've got to have an all hands on deck approach" said Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.
"These deaths include people who just got out of rehab, they include one person who was an advocate for recovery...they include people who took heroin for the first time as we can tell, the first time maybe your last time" said Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.
In 2015 the number of drug deaths in the five largest counties all saw an increase in drug overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015. The most being in Cumberland County, which had 43 in 2014 and last year had 86.
Maine Attorney General Mills said one solution to the growing problem is to make as many resources as possible available to addicts.
She said introducing Narcan in as many communities as possible and opening more emergency detox centers will help. Attorney General Mills also said she believes possessing heroin and fentanyl should be made a felony again. She said it went to a "misdemeanor last October."
"We have got to take every action we can, and to use all the tools, all the resources we can, all efforts to intervene, to educate to make sure people don't start taking these drugs in the first place and to make sure they get help when they do, get addicted which can happen like that" said Maine Attorney General Mills.
Final analysis of the deaths exceeded initial estimates largely due to an increase in deaths caused by heroin and fentanyl during the latter half of 2015, according to the report.
A.G. Mills commented on the report:
“These figures are shocking … Maine averaged more than five drug deaths per week … 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.”
Two-thirds of the decedents in 2015 were men; Cumberland County led all counties with 32% (86) of the statewide total; and the city of Portland led all municipalities with 46 deaths.
Cumberland County's death rate increased by 100% from 2014 (15.3) to 2015 (30.5).
The drug overdose death analysis was conducted for the Maine Attorney General, Chief Medical Examiner offices by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.