Maine Advocates React to Latest CDC Report Outlining Devastating Number of Overdose Deaths

CDC’s Preliminary Analysis Finds 93,000 Americans Lost Their Lives To A Drug Overdose In 2020 — Marking Largest Single-Year Increase Ever Recorded

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
July 16, 2021 10:30 am

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AUGUSTA, MaineAdvocates across Maine are calling for changes to ineffective drug laws after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a preliminary report this week, finding that drug overdose deaths in the United States reached an all-time high in 2020. The report showed drug overdose deaths rose 30 percent in 2020 to a record 93,000.

The national data comes as Maine also experienced record overdose deaths in 2020, with more than 500 people dying. Harm reduction and drug policy reform advocates — including the ACLU of Maine, Health Equity Alliance (HEAL), Maine Recovery Advocacy Project (ME-RAP) and the Maine People’s Alliance — today released the following joint statement:

“We ache for every person lost to preventable drug overdose deaths. These grim records, in Maine and nationally, must spur urgent action from local, state and federal lawmakers to end 50 years of destructive and ineffective drug policy.

In Maine, advocates and their allies have made important strides toward harm reduction and public health-based policies this legislative session. We ended the criminalization of safer use supplies with the passage of LD 994. We had significant support for LD 967 — including passage in the Maine House — a bill that would have ended criminal penalties for drug possession and offered people another pathway to recovery instead.

We need our leaders in Augusta to treat problematic drug use like the public health issue it is, instead of relying on the criminal legal system.

We will never be able to arrest our way out of the overdose epidemic. It’s time to stop using a failed punishment model to address drug use in Maine and reinvest the resources we spend arresting people into an evidence-based public health response that directs support to those in need. This is how places like Portugal – which eliminated criminal penalties for drugs 20 years ago – have reduced overdose deaths by 80 percent.”

Complete overdose data from 2020 is not yet available, but experts predict that these numbers will most likely increase once the final count is released.

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