AUGUSTA (WGME) – Promising to clean up Maine’s opioid epidemic, Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday appointed the state’s first director of opioid a response.
Her appointee, Gordon Smith, most recently has served as executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association.
“He will work closely with members of medical communities, medical providers, treatment experts, law enforcement, educators and members of the community to figure out what is working and what is not,” Mills said.
Mills said more than 1,600 people have died in Maine from drug overdoses in five years.
Smith said his position will bring a new approach to the fight against opioids.
“Maine has not faired as well as other New England states, in part because our state response has been rather anemic,” he said.
A heavy focus will be on helping the addicted.
“This is a chronic illness. These are our sons and daughters and they need to be loved, they need to be treated,” he said.
Both Mills and Smith said previous Maine leadership lacked this type of response and that will also do more to put traffickers in jail. They said the state will have a full complement of drug prosecutors who not only will put the traffickers behind bars but participate everyday in the five active drug courts and sixth to come online soon.
Maine Republicans said they are in favor of more treatment options for opioid addiction but said that they are still concerned about where the funding will come from for these new positions.
Mills said the real focus should be on why it has taken so long for a response like this to happen.
“History will note that we have lost an entire generation of people to the opioid epidemic and that we simply have failed to address this preventable disease,” she said.