ME: Attorney General releases January 2021 drug overdose data

Boothbay Register –

The first of monthly reporting for the public

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner have released drug overdose data for January 2021, which draws attention to the continued devastation the opioid epidemic is causing in Maine. This report inaugurates monthly reporting, designed to improve transparency and timeliness regarding Maine’s epidemic of substance use morbidity and mortality. Year-to-date numbers will be updated with each new monthly report, as cases are finalized, and their overdose status is confirmed or ruled out. The totals are expected to shift as this evolution occurs. In addition, as a result of using a smaller sample size in each month, totals are expected to fluctuate due to the effects of random variation. The reports will also feature aspects of the states response to the epidemic. These monthly reports will be posted on https://mainedrugdata.com.

The report, compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that 58 deaths were caused by drugs in January of 2021. Of those, 29 are confirmed drug deaths and 29 are suspected drug deaths. The most frequent cause of death in these cases is non-pharmaceutical fentanyl.

In response to the report, Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said, “January’s numbers are a stark and tragic reminder of how pervasive and deadly the opioid epidemic is. We must urgently work to connect Mainers who are struggling with substance use disorder with the resources they need to protect them and help them advance in recovery, and we must come together as a community to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control so that barriers to treatment and support are removed.”

Frey continued, “Reporting this data more frequently, and eventually adding data for non-fatal overdoses, will enable us to have a better grasp in real-time of the crisis. I am also encouraged by efforts underway from Governor Mills’s administration and other stakeholders and am pleased that the report will begin to highlight aspects of the states response to the crisis which merits greater attention.”

One such measure Frey noted was the Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety (OPTIONS) initiative. OPTIONS is a coordinated effort of the Maine Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) and other state agencies to improve the health of Mainers using substances through harm reduction strategies, helping them on the road to recovery, and dramatically reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses. More information on OPTIONS can be found at https://knowyouroptions.me.

Attorney General Frey noted that combating drug deaths continues to be a priority of the Office of the Attorney General. He is a member of the Governors Prevention and Recovery Cabinet. The full report from Dr. Sorg is attached.

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