GETTING HELP: Resources for those who want to stop, and how others can help

As a devastating public health crisis tore through families and communities across the state, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram set out to document the heroin epidemic’s impact. A team of reporters sought to understand the causes and consequences of the rapidly rising death toll by listening to firsthand accounts of survivors – the loved ones left behind after an opioid-related death.

The newspaper met with Attorney General Janet Mills, whose office oversees the state medical examiner, and requested help in finding families who suffered losses and were willing to share their stories. Mills mailed a personal letter to family members of the hundreds of victims who have died recently and asked them to contact the newspaper if they agreed to be interviewed. In addition, reporters found families through obituaries, funeral home directors and drug counselors.

After interviewing more than 100 families who agreed to share their stories about their lost loved ones, reporters produced 60 individual portraits of overdose victims. In addition, these interviews and those of drug addiction experts and people in recovery revealed aspects of the crisis that were going unreported.

How women in particular are succumbing to the drug epidemic because of insufficient treatment facilities. How the state made treatment harder to get. How some families are devastated by multiple overdose deaths. How hundreds more children are being removed from drug-infested homes and stressing the child welfare system.

This 10-part series is the result of a yearlong project involving more than 50 reporters, editors and photographers.

Cliff Schechtman

Executive Editor

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