Drug Use and Abuse in Maine Takes Lives and Demands Resources
"Last year, over 800 babies were born in this state, drug addicted. If that isn't a damned scary figure, then I don't know what is," states Maine's Commissioner of Public Safety, John Morris.
Morris goes on to explain that a "reasonable percentage" of those babies were addicted to Methadone.
Commissioner Morris says he's working with Governor Paul LePage to produce a Governor's bill for the legislature's consideration in January. The recommendations will address a variety of negative impacts the state is experiencing, brought on by the significant drug use and abuse in Maine.
At the end of last week, the Governor and Commissioner Morris joined law and drug enforcement representatives and district attorneys, at two different forums and the message was the same.
Commissioner Morris says many rural police departments don't have enough personnel to deal with drug cases so more support is needed from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. More needs to be done to crack down on drugs entering the jails and prisons, and the community needs to step up, as homes and businesses are burglarized by those needing to support their drug addictions.
Because of the economy, the drug of choice in Maine has switched from prescription opiates like oxycodone, to heroin.
"It's supply and demand, and money," says Morris. "We had 56 pharmacy robberies last year and this year we've had less than 10." Some of that is the law enforcement deterrent, but the biggest issue is street price.
Morris says the heroin in the state is cheap, addictive, and in several instances deadly.
"A 35 milligram of oxycodone now is anywhere from 35 to 50 dollars for just one pill. A bag of heroin is 20 or 25," says Morris.
Morris says drugs affect families and communities when people overdose, and the general public safety is threatened by things such as discarded hypodermic needles on residential streets and in parks. Not to mention the more brazen crimes being committed by addicts needing to feed their addiction.
Drug agents last week stopped a traveling methamphetamine mobile lab in Ellsworth thanks to an alert hotel guest who called in suspicious activity. Substances used to "cook" that drug are considered toxic.
Commissioner Morris says the Governor will continue his listening to public officials to best determine how to deal with state's drug problem that's been estimated to cost the state lives and billions of dollars, all told.
Aside from drug overdoses, Commissioner Morris says there were five drug related homicides last year in Maine as well.
Commissioner Morris is quick to point out the drug problem in Maine requires more than just a law enforcement response. It needs to be addressed through education and rehabilitation as well, and the Governor will continue his fact finding and brainstorming with those on the front lines of the problem to prepare his legislative recommendations.