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Maine on pace to see record number of overdose deaths

Portland police said this past weekend alone, there were three suspected fatal overdoses.

PORTLAND, Maine — Again this year, Maine is on pace to see a record number of fatal overdoses.

According to the State's Monthly Overdose Report for October, 565 people have died of overdoses through the fist ten months of the year. In the same time period, there were 8,488 total overdoses statewide.

In all of 2021, there were 631 fatal overdoses, and 9,678 total.

"Every loss is preventable, and heartbreaking," Leslie Clark, executive director of the Portland Recovery Community Center, said. 

Portland has also seen a sharp increase in both fatal and non-fatal overdoses this year. Fifty people have died of overdoses, according to data shared by the Portland police, versus 21 in 2021. Overall, Portland police have responded to 484 overdoses this year, up from 331 in 2021.

According to the Portland Police Department, this past weekend alone there were three suspected fatal overdoses.  

"To hear three people have died in one weekend, it really hits home hard," Clark said. Clark and her team of volunteers work with thousands in Southern Maine through recovery coaching, counseling and support groups. 

She said the recent string of overdoses emphasizes the importance of carrying the overdose reversal drug Narcan. 

"Every time a life is saved, that person is one step closer to recovery," Clark said. "But we encourage every citizen to carry Narcan. Here in Portland you could be walking down Congress Street on a Saturday night and see someone slumped over and save that person's life. It's easy to access, it's easy to use, and it's so important."

Across the state, there are several locations to access Narcan, also known as naloxone, at no cost. Maine's Options Program has a list of locations where you can obtain it for free.

One of those location is Portland Public Health. Kerri Barton is the program coordinator for harm reduction services through Portland Public Health. 

"Fentanyl is a really potent synthetic opioid that's roughly 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine," Barton said.

According to the October Overdose Report, fentanyl has been attributed as the cause of death in 79% of fatal overdoses this year. 

In addition to naloxone distribution, Barton and the Portland Public Health team offer safe use supplies, along with fentanyl test strips and other resources.

"A trend that we're seeing nationally and locally is that a lot of overdose deaths we're seeing [are] among individuals that were found alone," Barton said. 

Barton urged individuals not to use drugs alone, but resources are available if they do. Barton says the Never Use Alone hotline is an important tool to preventing fatal overdoses.

"The individual calls the hotline prior to using, and that person calls EMS if they become unresponsive," Barton said. 

Maine has also adopted a Good Samaritan Law, which prevents a person from being arrested or prosecuted for drug crimes when calling for medical assistance if someone is experiencing an overdose.


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