Portland police said Friday that there have been five deaths among 11 drug overdoses reported in the city so far this month, another sign that the opioid crisis still rages in Maine.

“This is a concerning spike we felt necessary to advise the public about so that users and families know what resources and help are available to them,” Police Chief Frank Clark said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement, public health, and prevention partners in hopes of turning the tide on this epidemic.”

The recent victims were: a 49-year-old woman, a 22-year-old man, a 24-year-old man, a 35-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man. One of the deaths was an intentional overdose, police said, and all are still under investigation. Police said opioids are the suspected cause in at least two of the five fatalities, and methamphetamine and synthetic marijuana, or spice, were also involved.

On Thursday, state officials released new data that showed a slight increase in overdose deaths in Maine for the first nine months of 2019, reversing a 15 percent decline from 2017 to 2018. From January through September of last year, 277 people died from drug overdoses, putting the state on track for 369 fatal overdoses for the entire year. That would be a 4 percent increase over 2018.

Gordon Smith, the state’s first director of opioid response, said the statewide numbers are disheartening but many efforts to provide broader access to naloxone and expand needle exchange programs are only now getting underway. He also pointed to gaps in Maine’s response to the crisis, including a lack of recovery coaches and recovery houses to complement the availability of medication-assisted treatment.

Although few communities have been spared from the opioid crisis, Portland has carried a heavy burden – 318 overdose deaths from 2008 through 2018.

Portland police said they are working to identify traffickers and highlighted a recent arrest that involved the seizure of 375 grams of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has supplanted heroin as the most lethal drug.

Police also noted that the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, sometimes called Narcan, is available without a prescription at pharmacies. Portland Public Health also offers no-cost Narcan, as well as overdose recognition and response training. A community training and Narcan distribution event will be held Wednesday, starting at 4:30 p.m. at 103 India St. The training is free and open to the public.

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