STANDISH — The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether four fatal drug overdoses that occurred in Standish last month are connected, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said in an interview this week.

From the beginning of December to Jan. 24 of this year, there were six fatal overdoses in Cumberland County, compared to one during the same period last year. There were 11 non-fatal overdoses during that time, compared to nine a year ago.

“That’s concerning. What I’ve seen is some young people and middle-aged people have died as a result of a fatal overdose,” Joyce said Monday. “And one death is one death too many.”

Five of those deaths occurred within a three-week period in January, and four of them in the town of Standish alone.

Joyce said he was “kind of shocked that it would be lopsided into Standish, but it should not be taken that some of these other places are not an issue.”

Investigators are waiting on the toxicology reports from the Medical Examiner’s Office, which will help them determine if the overdoses in Standish are connected to a single batch of drugs, Joynce said.

He said he could not speculate on why the recent spate of overdoses and drug-related arrests are concentrated in the Lakes Region.

Since Dec. 1, deputies have arrested and charged 28 people with drug-related offenses and seized 11 different types of drugs, including fentanyl and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

The CCSO also uses a national database called the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, which collects and provides real-time data on fatal and nonfatal overdoses. Joyce said the database determine possible connections between overdoses and how the drugs may be coming into the area.

Tracey Martin, executive director of the Lakes Region Recovery Center in Bridgton, said that it’s incumbent upon the CCSO to communicate to the public that “they’re not just there to lock them up, they’re a resource broker” that can help drug users.

Joyce said the CCSO is focused on improving recovery resources at the Cumberland County Jail, including hiring a medication assisted treatment re-entry coordinator last month. The hope is that if they “eliminate the demand, the sellers will have to go somewhere else,” he said.

“We know we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” Joyce said.

Through education, enforcement and community outreach, he hopes the CCSO will be able to connect with people “before they get into the criminal justice system, but also before they use and die as a result.”

“Ten years ago, you probably wouldn’t have heard someone say get in touch with us,” he said.

“I think it’s important that (Joyce) is putting his face out there and saying we’re paying attention to what’s playing out in our community and want to prevent that,” Martin said.

 

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