Don Campbell, center, performs with his band during a free concert in Deering Oaks in Portland on Sunday to raise awareness about the fentanyl crisis in Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Sunday was a perfect day to head out to Deering Oaks and listen to the Don Campbell Band play favorites such as “Change in the Weather” and “Gimme All Your Love.”

But overshadowing the sunny weather and music was the purpose behind the Sunday afternoon concert: to raise awareness about the exploding fentanyl crisis that is hitting close to home for so many people in Portland and the rest of Maine.

Leo Menard of Old Orchard Beach said the crisis is getting worse, and it isn’t just killing people who are already contending with substance use problems. He knows of people in his community who have died simply because they took a drug to have fun.

“Two incidents in Old Orchard that stand out,” Menard said. One man ran a gutter business, he said.

“Someone came over to his house to visit; no one had seen him for two days,” he said. The visitor found both the man and the person who had provided the drugs. “He and the person who brought the drugs to him were both dead. He was a regular business guy; he officiated all kinds of sporting events. He was involved in his community.”

Another man Menard knew who had a successful plumbing and heating business went away for a snowmobiling weekend with three friends. They took some drugs laced with fentanyl and all four died, Menard said.


“You just don’t know who you know who’s going to play around,” he said. “They’re thinking they’re going to have one night of fun, and it’s their last night.”

Sunday’s concert was attended by about 150 people. It was co-sponsored by Portland’s Health and Human Services Department and the Portland Rotary Club. Public health and opioid support organizations, including the Salvation Army and Milestone Recovery, manned tables to provide education and tools, including fentanyl test strips and Narcan.

Narcan, or naloxone, can reverse the effects of an overdose. Fentanyl test strips can help detect fentanyl in drugs.

Overdose deaths set a record in Maine for the third straight year in 2022, claiming the lives of an estimated 716 people and offering another grim reminder that the opioid crisis continues to rage even as access to treatment and Narcan have increased. Roughly four of every five of last year’s overdose fatalities were attributable to fentanyl, either taken on its own or in combination with another drug, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The Rotary’s mission used to be to eradicate polio. Now it is focused on the fentanyl crisis, a member said.

“We had no idea there was so much fentanyl in this town,” said event organizer and Rotary member Tom Ranello. “There are so many people being impacted by it, children and grandchildren are the ones dying from this.”


Ranello said he has friends who have lost loved ones. One friend’s daughter visited her mother’s house, said she was tired and lay down for a nap.

“She never woke up, a 31-year-old,” Ranello said. Another woman he knows lost her 23-year-old the same way, he said.

“She went out, somebody said, ‘Here try this. It’ll make you feel good. We’re going to have a great time tonight.’ They don’t know what it is,” he said. “When you take street drugs you don’t know what you’re taking. It’s horrible what’s going on.”

There are all kinds of street drugs getting contaminated with fentanyl, Ranello and others at the concert said. When the band took a break, people took to the stage to talk about fentanyl and encourage drug users to seek treatment.

U.S. Sen. Angus King attended, and said that “recovery works, recovery can make a difference and save lives.” He thanked those who work to prevent addiction and deaths.

One of those was Justin Judkins of Portland, manning a table for the Portland Recovery Community Center. Judkins said he works at the center as a recovery coach.


Judkins said he became addicted to fentanyl after his “life became unmanageable.” He went into treatment 14 months ago and has been clean since.

It was hard, he said. “I didn’t sleep for 14 days. It was excruciating,” he said.

When he was in college he drank and smoked marijuana, he said, and eventually began using other drugs. He met “a cool girl” and started taking oxycodone.

“I really liked the feeling. I was like superman,” he said. Eventually he took pills pressed with fentanyl. Fentanyl is easy to get and not as expensive as other opioids, he said, but people don’t understand how addictive and dangerous it is.

“I am very lucky to be alive,” Judkins said, adding he’s lost friends to overdoses.

Like others at the concert, he said lots of street drugs may contain fentanyl.

“They’re putting it into marijuana,” Judkins said. “They’re putting it into cocaine. They’re putting it into molly and ecstasy. It’s scary.”

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