AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — More than 700 people died from drug overdoses last year in Maine, setting the third straight record, officials said.
A report by the attorney general’s office Thursday notes there were 716 suspected or confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2022, compared to 636 deaths the year before and 504 deaths in 2020.
The growing number of deaths underscores a continuing opioid epidemic that persists despite greater access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and efforts to expand access to treatment.
“Worsened by the growing presence of deadly fentanyl, the scourge of addiction continues to reach into every corner of our state — rural and urban — robbing us of our friends, family and loved ones, and harming our communities, our people and our future,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “My heart breaks with every life lost to a drug overdose, and my administration will not rest until we reduce this number to zero.”
Fentanyl was a factor in nearly 80% of overdoses either alone or in combination with other drugs, the report said.
Despite the expanded access to naloxone, the number of overdoses that were reversed with the drug represented less than 25% of all overdoses, including those in which people survived, the report said. All told, more than 10,000 overdoses were reported in 2022, which means about 7% resulted in death, the report said.
In her budget proposal, Mills proposed $237 million in additional federal and state funding for behavioral health, which includes increasing rates for mental health and substance use disorder services provided by MaineCare, a program that provides free and low-cost health insurance to state residents who meet certain requirements.
Gordon Smith, the state’s director of opioid response, said Maine’s community of health care providers, recovery advocates and volunteers are working together to help people with substance use disorder “enter recovery, find treatment options that work for them, and most important, stay alive.”