August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day that brings us together to remember those we have lost to overdose, to acknowledge those injured by overdose, and to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorder. The largest campaign of its kind, International Overdose Awareness Day aims to give people a safe opportunity to mourn with their community, while also educating the general public about overdose prevention.
The state of Maine has seen an alarming increase in overdose deaths, with fatal cases nearly doubling in the last 5 years. In 2022, over 10,110 total overdoses were reported and 716 Mainers died from an overdose, an increase of 80 from the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the crisis, with limited access to treatment and increased isolation. It’s time to put the spotlight on this public health crisis, on the lives lost, the families affected, and the urgent need for action.
The Western Maine Addiction Recovery Initiative is committed to fighting this deadly epidemic by providing resources and advocacy to anyone at any stage of addiction and recovery. During the annual Western Maine Recovery Rally, held this year on Sunday September 17th, WMARI and community members will honor the Maine lives lost to overdose with a beautiful butterfly memorial at Moore park. We also welcome people to come to The HILLS Recovery Center and share the name of a loved one on our memorial board.
Earlier this year, WMARI opened The HILLS Recovery Center in Norway to increase access to treatment resources, harm reduction strategies, medication-assisted treatment, meetings, and other services. WMARI provides free Narcan, a nasal spray that can prevent overdose death from opioids, and Narcan training. WMARI also provides local businesses with free naloxone boxes, a life-saving kit of overdose response tools. With the help of WMARI, our community can prepare for immediate and long term solutions to overdose.
On this International Overdose Awareness Day, let us come together as a community to support those affected, remember those who lost their lives, and demand policy change that prioritizes the well-being of all Mainers. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the first responders, doctors, nurses, counselors, neighbors, and individuals in recovery working to save lives and prevent overdose deaths.