Attorney General Jeff Sessions will visit Portland Friday to discuss the opioid epidemic with local law enforcement, according to two law enforcement sources.
The event will be held at the Portland office of U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine, where Sessions is expected to give remarks and discuss the national drug epidemic that continues its deadly toll across New England, according to the law enforcement officials who have knowledge of the event.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank declined to comment on the meeting late Monday. A spokeswoman for Sessions said more information on the meeting would be released to the public soon.
The visit comes after Sessions unveiled a task force in February to address the drug crisis by cracking down on manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates, which were prescribed for years in vast quantities across the United States, leading many users to heroin and other illegal opiates.
The task force will also assist local and state governments that are suing manufacturers for aggressively pushing doctors to prescribe the drugs, often downplaying their addictiveness.
In Maine, the percentage of people whose fatal overdoses were due to prescription drugs is on the decline.
In the first quarter of 2018, more people who died from overdoses were killed by illegal substances, including non-prescription fentanyl, as opposed to pharmaceutical opioids, according the state Attorney General’s office, which tracks the deaths.
About 65 percent of the deaths recorded in the first quarter were due to fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, up from 52 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2017. Fentanyl is a cheaper, more powerful alternative to heroin, and many users who believe they are taking heroin are actually using fentanyl.
In April, Portland joined a lawsuit against 20 drug manufacturers and five doctors filed by other cities against opioid manufacturers. Across the nation, state Attorneys General have also filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers, mimicking the tactic in the 1990s that led to large cash settlements with tobacco companies that downplayed or covered up the addictiveness of nicotine.
Attorney General Jeff Sssions.