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'One overdose every 30 hours': Portland police release new overdose, drug death statistics

The department said there were 175 overdoses from January 1, 2021, through the end of August. 14 of those were fatal.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Police Department released overdose data for 2021 on Friday that showed a decrease from last year's numbers through the same time period.

The data show 175 reported overdoses, 14 of which were fatal, from January 1, 2021, to August 30, 2021. The department said it equals about one overdose every 30 hours.

"They know what to expect. Officers know that this is likely to happen on their shift," Portland Police communications director David Singer said. 

75% of the time, someone used naloxone, known by the brand name NARCAN, to rescue the person in crisis. 25% of the time, it was a Portland police officer delivering the life-saving antidote.

"It's often a difference of life and death," Singer said. "It shows the importance of having NARCAN in the hands of our officers and first responders."

Singer said 2021's numbers are a decrease from 2020, in which the department reported 208 overdoses, 27 of which were fatal. He said the numbers are encouraging, but that they are not ready to try to identify trends.

One Maine construction company owner told NEWS CENTER Maine that he lost four employees to heroin overdoses. He said another large company where he gets his materials from lost three employees to overdoses in 2021 alone.

In August and September of 2021, Portland police referred 67% of overdose victims to the hospital for follow-up treatment. In 2020, Singer said officers referred 29% of victims for follow-ups.

"That's key in getting them out of that cycle and it's encouraging. It's encouraging to see this increase in follow-up care and following through and that's why we're here," Singer said. 

He acknowledged that not everyone is ready to get treatment for their struggles with substance use following an overdose.

"We're fortunate that we have police officers and behavioral health experts in our department that are equipped with this NARCAN, the training, the willingness, and the dedication to help people when they're in one of the worst moments of their life."

Narcan is available at pharmacies without a prescription.

The City of Portland offers free naloxone training for the public. For more info, or to schedule a training and/or obtain Narcan, please contact Bridget Rauscher, Program Manager at Portland Public Health Division at (207) 874-8798, or bnevers@portlandmaine.gov.

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