Governor Janet T. Mills, announced last month that she has appointed Attorney Gordon Smith, EXecutive Director of the Maine Medical Association, to serve as the Director of the Opioid Response in her administration. The newly created position, will be housed within the Office of Innovation and the Future, will marshall the collective power of state government to combat the opioid epidemic.
“History will note that we have lost an entire generation of people to the opioid epidemic and that we have simply failed to address this preventable disease. It is time to mobilize state government to stem the tide of this deadly epidemic,” said Governor Mills. “Gordon Smith is an experienced, well-respected and highly qualified public health expert. I have complete confidence in his ability to work across departments and knock down the silos that prevent us from working to combat this crises and protect Maine families.”
“While the opioid crises will not be eradicated by any single approach, with a spirited effort and better coordination among Maine’s state government agencies we can save lives and improve the health of our state,” said Gordon Smith. “I am incredibly thankful to Governor Mills for the opportunity to lead such meaningful work and I look forward to working with her cabinet and community members across the state to get it done.”
In the past five years, at least 1,630 people in Maine have died from drug overdose – more than the population of Chesterwell, Eastport or North Berwick. In 2017, 418 Mainers died from drug overdose – more than one per day – and 908 children who were born in Maine were affected by drugs.
Smith, 67, is Executive Vice President of the Maine Medical Association. A Maine native he graduated from the University of Maine in 1973 and from Boston College of Law School in 1976. He lives in East Winthrop.
Football fans may have seen the article in the SportsSunday section of “The New York Times,” on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2019. The in depth article outlined how the drug epidemic has affected both playing and retired NFL players. “Yet as professionals, they regularly used the pills to continue playing, and even in retirement, their pill-popping habits persisted, sending them on haunting, shattering journeys into opioid addiction.” According to the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 26.2 percent of retired players said they had used prescription opioids within the past 30 days. Nearly half of those said they did not use them as prescribed. The article went on to say that: For decades, players have justified taking painkillers because the medication helped them earn big N.F.L. paychecks. Now, a growing number of them are saying that easy access to them turned them into addicts.” (Congratulations to the PATS for Super Bowl win no. six!)
Governor Mills is expected to have a press conference tomorrow at her office to announce plans to combat this epidemic in Maine.