Gov. Janet Mills will convene an opioid response summit this summer to encourage continued collaboration in the state’s effort to battle to the deadly crisis.

Her office announced Thursday that the July 15 summit at the Augusta Civic Center will feature keynote speeches from Michael Botticelli, President Obama’s drug czar, and author Sam Quinones, whose nonfiction book “Dreamland,” was among the first to explore how the crisis took hold.

“I am honored Michael Botticelli and Sam Quinones have agreed to keynote this summit and share their experience, knowledge and recommendations with our public health officials, legislators, state and local government officials, and the public as Maine continues to tackle the opioid epidemic,” said Gordon Smith, who serves as Maine’s director of opioid response, a position Mills created in January.

Botticelli served as Obama’s director of national drug control policy from 2014 through the end of his presidency and is now executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at the Boston Medical Center. He visited Maine in August 2015 with Sen. Angus King for a forum on the opioid crisis.

Quinones, a former Los Angles Times reporter, published “Dreamland,” in 2015. The book lays out the origins of what has grown into the biggest U.S. public health crisis in modern times – the convergence of pharmaceutical companies flooding small towns with highly addictive prescription opioids like OxyContin and Mexican drug dealers capitalizing on a market for black tar heroin in the small and midsize U.S. cities.

In an interview in January, Mills showed off a well-worn copy of Quinones’ book and said she refers to it often when discussing policy ideas.

“While we have made strides in expanding access to treatment and recovery, investing in prevention and education, and supporting law enforcement, we have much more to do to stem the tide of this deadly epidemic,” the governor said in a statement. “This summit will bring together national and state leaders to give us feedback on our actions and provide new ideas to inform our work on this critical issue.”

Overdose deaths rose sharply in Maine from 155 in 2011 to a high of 417 in 2017, largely fueled by heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Last year, the total decreased to 354, but that was still more than double the number of deaths only five years earlier.

Maine was slow to the respond to the growing crisis but has made significant investments in treatment options and in access to the overdose reversing drug Narcan.

The daylong summit in July will feature presentations on actions taken by neighboring states and new threats such as the emergence of deadly synthetic drugs, as well as breakout sessions on issues ranging from recovery support strategies to community coalitions.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.