A lantern honors someone who died from an overdose. Credit: Hannah Catlin / Aroostook Republican

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Substance use-related overdoses are a growing public health problem in Maine that involve men and women of all races, and adults of nearly all age groups. Sen. Chloe Maxmin’s amendment to LD 1862, “An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Good Samaritan Laws Concerning Drug-Related Medical Assistance,” aims to expand the current Good Samaritan Law by shielding everyone at the scene of an overdose from arrest and/or prosecution for all non-violent crimes, probation, and bail violations. Expanding the Good Samaritan Law is one step that policymakers can make to address the rising rate of drug-related mortality and the broader social and economic impacts of overdose on Maine families and communities.

In 2014, the United States, for the first time in 60 years began to see a decline in life expectancy, with the largest contributor being midlife mortality secondary to drug overdose ( Woolf and Schoomaker, 2019). Overdoses affect the number of working-age adults, employers, and thus the economic growth and productivity of our state. The increase in opioid overdose deaths also affects children, whose parents today are more likely to die in midlife and whose own health could be at risk when they reach that age, if not sooner.

In Maine, overdose deaths continue to rise annually, increasing 23% from 2020 to 2021. The rise in fatal overdoses is multifactorial, but one of the largest catalysts is the surge of Fentanyl use — a fast-acting synthetic opioid that is  up to 100 times more potent than heroin and is unknowingly being added to other street drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.  Fentanyl and other novel synthetic opioids require larger or repeated doses of Narcan to effectively reverse respiratory depression, however, by one estimate as many as 74 percent of overdoses are not contacting emergency medical services.

Maxmin’s amendment to LD 1862 acknowledges that substance use disorder is not a moral failing. It is, however, a chronic medical condition that deserves to be represented as one in our Maine legislation.

Jill Vaughn

Nurse practitioner

South Portland