I read the Jan. 12 article, “2020 will likely set new record for most drug overdose deaths in Maine,” regarding the number of opioid overdose deaths over the last three quarters of 2020. In just nine months, 317 people died.

With the focus and energy spent on COVID, the reality is that more Mainers died from drug overdoses during this time period than died of COVID. With the number of overdose deaths estimated to exceed 500 for the full year, this eclipses the number of COVID deaths during 2020 by almost 20%.

Unfortunately, this deadly crisis in Maine does not get the attention that COVID-19 has generated. Long after COVID vaccines have been administered, opioid and drug overdoses will continue.

Behavioral health is the largest challenge in medicine. It’s a difficult challenge because many of those affected are in the lower economic tier and consequently rely on government programs to cover care and rehabilitation, if in fact they ever seek help. The burden this places on families, health providers and society in general is significant.

The lack of longterm care facilities hampers recovery efforts for addicts and mental health patients. How many times do we hear that beds are not available? Alcoholism and addiction strike every segment of the population without regard for status or income, much the same way COVID or other infectious diseases afflict us.

I support St. Mary’s hospital’s commitment to behavioral health. The investments they have made shows a commitment to the community and exhibits the foresight and courage to tackle and treat an illness that will be with us long after COVID-19 has been eradicated.

Roger Michaud, Orr’s Island

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