Scott Darling of Raymond received twice the mandatory minimum sentence.

PORTLAND (AP) – The first person in Maine to be charged with manslaughter for providing methadone to someone who fatally overdosed on it has been handed a four-year prison sentence.

Scott Darling, 41, of Raymond had pleaded guilty to furnishing methadone to Seth Jordan, 27, a Duke University graduate from the small community of Long Island. Jordan, who battled mental illness and developed a serious drug problem, died of a methadone overdose in 2002.

Jordan’s father, Bob Jordan, attended Darling’s sentencing last week in Cumberland County Superior Court.

“I think it sends a strong message to people who might furnish a drug that could kill somebody,” he said. “Of course, none of this will ever bring Seth back. All of it is cold comfort for me in some ways.”

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said the sentence – twice the minimum mandatory – was appropriate given the consequences of Darling’s actions.

“We have expanded our efforts and energies to divert drug addicts from prison to treatment. However, drug traffickers and furnishers deserve to go to prison and we will continue to seek stiff prison sentences for them,” she said.

Seth Jordan was one of 28 people who died in Portland from a drug overdose in 2002, up from 16 overdose deaths the year before. The public health crisis launched a series of initiatives aimed at combatting the problem, and they appear to be working.

Portland had just nine deaths in 2003 that appear to be accidental overdoses. Overdose deaths across the state also appear to have dropped, though precise statewide figures are not available.

The most up-to-date statistics available show that the state had 46 overdose deaths during the first half of 2003, with 14 of them involving methadone. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Kim Johnson, director of Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse.

“This was a better year than the year before but still relatively high, and we’re we’re still working on it and we’re working on it with treatment and education.”

Methadone was involved in 33 of the overdose deaths statewide in 2002, with most of it coming from doses given to methadone clinic patients to take home so they did not have to visit the clinic every day.

Methadone is prescribed at clinics to help patients avoid the cravings associated with opiate addiction, but a dosage that is appropriate to a person with a high level of tolerance can be fatal to someone who doesn’t have that tolerance.

Bob Jordan says he believes the high number of overdose deaths in 2002 and the public attention they received left drug users and the general public better educated about the dangers of methadone for non-addicts.

Clinics that used to provide a month’s worth of methadone at one time now dispense only enough to last a week. CAP Quality Care, a methadone clinic in Westbrook, also stopped providing liquid methadone and instead began supplying 40 mg wafers, which some substance abuse professionals say are less prone to overdosing.

“I think there’s been a lot of publicity about methadone and overdoses and the city has, in reaction to that, formed an overdose prevention committee which has done some good work,” said Sgt. Scott Pelletier of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. “But we continue to buy methadone that comes from the clinics, off the street and we have a number of cases still under investigation.”

AP-ES-01-19-04 0216EST

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