State Government Needs to Focus on Suicides and Opioid Abuse

Senator Marianne Moore discusses the dramatic increase in suicides and opioid abuse in Maine.

Hello. I’m Senator Marianne Moore of Calais.

Maine is in the midst of a real and heartbreaking crisis when it comes to suicide among our youth.

A recent analysis by the U.S. CDC showed that, nationwide, the number of young people, especially young girls, who attempt suicide is growing rapidly. Here in Maine, the statistics are above the national average.

The most tragic statistic has to do with age. Some of those who attempt suicide are as little as nine and ten years old. What has happened to us as a society when we put so much pressure on a nine-year-old that they try to end their life?

Aware of this terrible potential, an educator who reaches out for help and information on the Internet will find Maine DHHS’s Suicide Prevention Web pages with broken menu links, guides that are 12 years old, and pages that were last updated in 2016.

The Webpage: www.maine.gov/suicide/youth has not been updated since 2006 and requires a software download that is no longer available.

How in the world can we take on the statewide challenge of suicide if we cannot even keep a website up to date?

Starting in September, the Maine CDC will receive about $850,000 from the U.S. CDC to support youth anti-suicide programs. The money, says DHHS, will be used to strengthen and expand prevention programs that are essential to raise awareness about mental health, connect struggling adolescents to resources and prevent suicide.

Unfortunately, the state plans to send much of this money to groups like Zero Suicide, which is run by something called the Education Development Center, with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Maine’s money will also go to a school-based program called Sources of Strength whose mailing address is a P.O. Box in Lakewood, Colorado. Neither of these programs has a phone number on their site.

Another health-related crisis facing our state is the tremendous increase in the number of drug overdose deaths, driven largely by opioids. The number of these deaths in 2018 was 380. In 2021, we are on pace to reach 620.

One year ago, Maine received $7.5 million in federal funds to combat the opioid problem. Since then the state has experienced a dramatic rise in overdose deaths.

At the same time, Democrats in the Legislature were fighting the war on opioids by dropping the severity of the crime for possession of fentanyl, the most deadly drug on the streets today.

Thanks to a new law passed this summer, someone carrying 1,000 lethal doses of fentanyl will no longer face charges for dealing or trafficking the drug, but merely possessing it for their own personal use.

Clearly, Maine now has the resources it needs to combat these two public health problems. What is needed now is commonsense legislation and proper management by state government. Without both, these two issues will only worsen.

On September 19, I will be taking part in a Suicide Prevention Walk in Calais – a private event that will help the cause.

Again, I’m Senator Marianne Moore of Calais.

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