PARIS — Responding to what law enforcement officials are calling an “epidemic” of heroin use in Oxford Hills, police, prosecutors, elected officials and health care providers will host a town hall discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, at the Town Office.
According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug arrests related to heroin quadrupled between 2010 and 2014 and overdose deaths involving heroin/morphine have increased 800 percent since 2010.
In 2014, according to the Maine Office of the Attorney General, 208 people in Maine died of drug overdoses. Of those, 57 were heroin cases, a 60 percent increase in heroin deaths over 2013.
According to CDC statistics, the overdose increase in Maine is well above the 37 percent national rise from 2013 and 2014.
According to Attorney General Janet Mills, Mainers who died of heroin overdoses last year ranged in age from 18 to 88, with the average age being 43. In a statement released earlier this year, Mills said “not one county, not one community is untouched by this scourge.”
She pointed to “profit-seeking dealers from out-of-state (who) are setting up shop along the I-95 corridor and dealing in every corner of the state. No one is immune from these deaths.”
According to the U.S. CDC, some of the greatest increases in heroin use across the country are being seen in “demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured and people with higher incomes.”
The federal agency’s position is that states play a central role in prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. States are being urged to increase access to substance abuse treatment services, expand training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths, and help communities where drug addiction is common to implement community services and expand education.
The rise in heroin use is also considered a contributing factor to the increase in hepatitis C numbers in Maine, according to the CDC, with some of the sharpest increases in neighboring Androscoggin County.
One acute case of hepatitis C was reported in Oxford County in 2014, after a period of 13 years with no such reported cases. Last year, Oxford County reported 49 chronic cases, up from 40 cases the previous year.
According to a statement from Jeffrey Lange, interim chief of police in Paris, the town hall discussion is an invitation to the community to ask questions about the problem, educate addicts about possible solutions for their disease and talk about future ideas “for the issues we are facing.”
Joining Lange for the discussion will be representatives from the Norway and Oxford police departments and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney Andrew Robinson, and representatives of Tri-County Mental Health Services, Crooked River Counseling, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Sen. Angus King’s staff. Former Oxford County Sheriff and current state Rep. Lloyd “Skip” Herrick is also scheduled to attend.