Maine will receive $1.4 million in federal grants to reduce the risk of fatal overdoses from fentanyl and other opioids in rural communities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the funding Thursday as part of a nationwide effort to reduce overdoses in rural communities. Most of the money – $900,000 – will go to the MaineHealth statewide provider network and the Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness program to help rural communities respond to immediate needs, including the distribution of opioid overdose reversal medications. The remaining $500,000 will go to the MaineHealth network to help rural communities prevent, treat and care for opioid-exposed infants.

More than 100,000 people die nationwide each year from overdose, and residents of rural communities who are addicted to fentanyl, heroin or other opioids can face additional challenges in accessing treatment and recovery services, according to the DHHS. Along with geographic isolation and transportation barriers, rural parts of the state also have fewer providers of mental health and substance use health care.

“Far too many rural families have faced the devastation of overdose, and these deaths are felt deeply across rural communities – where often everyone knows someone lost too soon,” said Carole Johnson, the department’s health resources and services administrator.

Overdose deaths in Maine set a record for the third straight year in 2022, claiming an estimated 716 lives even as access to treatment and the overdose-reversing drug naloxone has increased. A total of 366 people died of overdoses in Maine between Jan. 1 and July 31 this year, which is down from 397 during the same period last year.

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