PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) — Maine continues to fight the opioid drug epidemic, and the U.S. attorney general came to the state Friday to offer some help.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Portland to meet with police, sheriffs and prosecutors about a new federal effort to target people trafficking in the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
That drug has been blamed for causing many of the 418 overdose deaths in Maine last year. It has also become a nationwide problem, which is why the Justice Department is providing what it calls a "surge" by prosecutors and federal drug agents to target those dealers/
"We’re not just locking up criminals for the sake of locking them up," Sessions said. "We are preventing addiction. Preventing the spreading of drugs, we are saving lives."
Maine is one of 10 states that are part of the project, called the Synthetic Opioid Surge, or "S.O.S."
The surge will focus in Cumberland County, which has had the most overdose deaths. Sheriff Kevin Joyce said he likes the added focus on catching the dealers, even though he also wants increased attention on drug treatment and rehab, too.
"We’re not going to arrest ourselves out of this problem but we do have jail beds for these people bringing the drugs in," Joyce said.
The nation's top law enforcement officer did not allow questions from the news media, and only touched on one other issue: the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sessions praised Kavanaugh as someone who supports the rule of law and said judges should not try to make law to match their own opinions.
Sessions' appearance in Portland drew a large crowd of protestors, wanting to show their anger with him over immigration and other issues involving the longtime conservative.
They chanted and sang in front of the Middle Street office building where the meeting was held, and also at other entrances. Two protestors were arrested after they decided to lie on the ground, trying to block the AG’s car from leaving the parking garage.