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Governor Mills reveals plans to combat opioid crisis as Maine deals with a record number of overdose deaths

Chef and author, Erin French, talked with the Governor about her new book, ‘Finding Freedom’...
Chef and author, Erin French, talked with the Governor about her new book, ‘Finding Freedom’ which details her battle with depression and addiction.(WABI)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Tackling the state’s opioid crisis - a goal of Governor Mills’ since she took office.

“We cannot rest until we deliver on our promise to attack this deadly and destructive disease and root it out,” Mills told the state Thursday during address at the third annual Opioid Response Summit.

In her virtual address, Mills acknowledged that it will take health care providers, law enforcement, and members of the public to fight the opioid battle.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths in 2020 rose by close to 30% across the country.

Here in Maine, 504 Mainers died of a drug overdose death.

“83% of those fatal overdoses were a result of non-pharmaceutical opioids, particularly fentanyl, which continues to be the main cause of these lethal overdoses,” explained Maine Attorney General, Aaron Frey.

“Just in the last few months, in four different arrests, the department took four pounds of fentanyl off the streets of Augusta, Bangor, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, and elsewhere across the state,” said Mills. “Four pounds of fentanyl!”

The summit also included those who have struggled with addiction, like famous chef and author, Erin French.

French owns one of the most sought-after restaurants in the country - The Lost Kitchen, in Freedom.

She talked with the Governor about her new book, ‘Finding Freedom’ which details her battle with depression and addiction.

An addiction that began with medication prescribed to her by a doctor.

“That’s a hard place to be when you think you’re under professional care and maybe that care was not up to the standard it should have been,” said French.

French was able to take solace in cooking, while finding her “village” as she likes to call it.

“It takes a huge amount of strength and help from others to life you up from those deep, dark holes, said French. “Everyone should have an emergency contact form for themselves at anytime with people you can reach out to or people who are checking in on you so that you have some checks and balances when you’re having dark moments that you have people that you can talk to and feel safe with.”

Mills also stressed the need to strengthen law enforcement efforts to prosecute drug traffickers as well as educate folks on a number of treatment options.

“Today we rededicate ourselves to preventing addiction to persevering through this opioid epidemic, and to achieving our full promise as a people and as a place,” said Mills.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol use, you can call 211 or 1-877-463-6207 to get help.

There you can find information and referrals to a number of substance use prevention programs.

More information can be found here.

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