The largest city in Maine is Portland, which is home to 67,000 people. Two commonly visited sites in the city are the Old Port and the Portland Head Light. Portland has experienced four devastating fires, and its city seal depicts a phoenix coming up from ashes. The city is named for the English Isle of Portland. The Native Americans had called the peninsula “Machigonne”, which means great neck. The first European settler to the region was Captain Christopher Levett and he founded the Casco Bay settlement. His settlement failed and the fate of him and his colonists is still not known. Today, Portland’s economy has shifted from fishing toward service-based industries.
Early in 2017, WMTV reported on Maine’s heroin epidemic in an article here. Drug overdoses in the state are a major problem today, with 272 people losing their lives in 2015 alone. Heroin is being laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times more potent. The Maine Attorney General’s Office reported that 111 of the overdose fatalities were due to fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that ranked Maine first in the nation for long-term opioid prescriptions.
Located in central Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston has around 37,000 residents. Considered to be part of the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Statistical Area, Lewiston was formed when French-Canadians immigrated here from the north. The city is a former mill town that is near the Androscoggin River across from Auburn. It draws crowds from all across Maine during the Festival FrancoFun, Liberty Festival and Great Falls Balloon Festival. Lewiston, MN is also home to the University of Southern Maine and Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The average family income in Lewiston is $46,200 and the median family size is 2.81. Around 22% of the population is below the poverty level here. The Office of the Maine Attorney General released a 2015 report regarding Maine’s drug use. They found that 208 people died in 2014 from drug overdoses which was an 18% increase from the previous year. In addition, substances that caused overdose deaths include cocaine, heroin and prescription opioids – much of what is seen in Lewiston. The number of deaths due to heroin jumped from 34 in 2013 to 57 the next year. Based on official data, the number of fentanyl-related deaths increased from 9 to 43 in one year’s time.
Bangor is a Maine city located along the Penobscot River. Known as “Queen City,” it has a population of around 33,000. Modern Bangor was established in the mid-1800s by European immigrants who came to work in lumber and shipbuilding industries. Today, the city relies on education, service and tourism industries. The top employers in this region are Hannaford Supermarkets, Bangor Savings Bank, NexxLinx Call Center, Eastern Maine Medical Center, University of Maine and General Electric. Experts believe the town is named after Bangor Gwynedd, Wales, or Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. In 2012, The Bridgeton News reported on opiate addiction in Maine and Bangor. For years, officials have known that Maine has the highest rate of non-heroin treatment admissions, which was 8 times the national average (386 people per 100,000 in 2008). In 2012, a local Walgreens was robbed and there was a total of 24 pharmacy robberies that year (double the number in 2011). In addition, burglaries and thefts are on the rise in MN.
South Portland is a city in Cumberland County that has a population of 25,000. Situated on Portland Harbor, the city overlooks the skyline of the Casco Bay islands. South Portland is home to the Portland-Montreal Pile Line, where barrels of oil are shipped to the city each year. The city is a suburban area with a diverse economy. The largest railroad yard in New England, Rigby Yard, was built here in 1922. Today, it is still in operation as Pan Am Railways. In 2013, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services released a State Epidemiological Profile. Around 25% of high school students in Maine admit to consuming alcohol sometime during the past month. Of these students, 1/3rd said they started drinking before age 13 years. Of those polled, one in seven adolescents in the state reported taking a prescription drug for a non-medical reason during the last year. Among adults ages 18 to 25 years, non-medical use of opioid drugs is higher than other age groups. Additionally, 20% of high school students in the state report smoking marijuana.
The seat of Androscoggin County, Maine is Auburn; which has 23,000 residents. Located across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston, Auburn is one of the two “Twin Cities” of Maine. In 1835, shoe manufacturing was big in the city and other firms in the area manufactured wool and cotton textiles, iron goods, bricks, furniture and carriages. Many French-Canadian immigrants came to Auburn, MN in 1890 and the area has had steady growth since then.
In 2007, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse released the Androscoggin County Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative Five-Year Strategic Prevention Plan for 2007-2012. Underage drinking was said to be the most serious substance abuse issue among adolescents and young adults for those residing in this county. They found that 26% of middle and high school students admitted to using alcohol during the previous 30 days. In addition, lifetime alcohol use was 43% for those 12 to 18 years of age. For high school seniors, that rate increased to 69%. In 2004, around 75% of total substance abuse treatment admissions involved alcohol.
Located in York County, Biddeford, MN is home to around 22,000 people. Considered a twin city to Saco, Biddeford is home to the University of New England and the annual La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival. The area was first visited in 1616 and is the site of one of the first European settlements in the United States. The racial composition of Biddeford is 98% White, 1% African-American, 1% Asian and 1% other races. Of the 8,600 households, 27% of them are home to adolescents and children. The median age of Biddeford Maine is 38 years. YDR News reported in 2015 on the heroin problem in York County. According to the York County Heroin Task Force, naloxone (Narcan) is used often to save people who have overdosed on heroin. In 2016, York County saw an increase in heroin and prescription opioid deaths.
Sanford is a town in York County Maine and it is situated on the Mousam River. The town features many lakes and wooded areas which attract tourists and campers. Around 21,000 people inhabit Sanford and it is part of the Portland-South-Portland-Biddeford-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area. The average family size in this city is 2.91 and 31% of homes have someone under age 18 in them. Sanford’s racial makeup is mainly White (95%), with 1% African-American, 2% Asian and 2% other races. The median age for Sanford is 40.5 years and the gender composition is 48% men and 52% women. Central Maine reported on the heroin and opioid abuse problem in the state, particularly the Sanford region. They found that MaineCare opioid prescriptions have decreased by 45% since 2012 (from 22 million to 12.2 million in 2014). The reason for the decrease, according to health experts, is that addicts are switching to heroin which is more available and cheaper than painkillers. In 2014, Maine drug treatment centers admitted 3,455 people, which was up from 1,111 in 2012.
The city of Brunswick is home to around 15,000 people and there are 434 people per square mile. Located in the town of Cumberland County Maine,it features the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Theater Project. Regarding racial makeup, 93% of residents are White, 2% are African-American, 2% are Asian and 3% are of other racial groups. The median age for the town is 41 years, and 28% of people are in the 45- to 64-year age group. According to The Bowdoin Orient, Brunswick is home to many stay-at-home moms, white collar professionals and high school students. Many of these people are heroin or prescription opioid addicts. In the state, 927 babies were born addicts in 2013 (7% of all newborns). Outpatient Behavioral Health officials claim that young people are turning to heroin when they no longer can get prescription opioids. In the past 7 years, the number of patients treated outpatient is 800, with 200 of these people residing in Brunswick.
The coastal resort town of Scarborough, Maine has a population of around 19,000. Located 7 miles south of Portland in Cumberland County, Scarborough is one of the U.S. oldest communities. In 1675, the area was a coastal settlement of people who fled King Philip’s War. After Indian wars and battles here, a great fort was erected in 1681 in honor of the New England militia soldiers who died here. By 1749, the town of Scarborough saw economic prosper, with cattle, timber and other local products being exported across the Ocean to England. In 2015, ABC27 reported on heroin overdoses in Cumberland County. The coroner said that overdoses involving heroin and other opioids were epidemic in the area. The town had 2 in 2013 and that jumped to 14 in 2014. In 2015, 35 people died due to opioid (pill or powder) overdoses. Emergency respondents are now being equipped with the reversal drug “Narcan,” which can help those who are dying from respiratory depression.
Saco is in York County, Maine, and the town has around 18,500 residents. Home to Funtown Splashtown USA, Ferry Beach State Park and Thornton Academy, Saco sees much tourism during summertime. Around 96% of Saco residents identify as White on Census reports and the area has a population density of 480 persons per square mile. The median age in Saco, MN is 42 years, with 31% of the population falling in the 45-64 age group. York County was second only to Cumberland County in the average number of overdose fatalities for Maine. In 2013, the area saw 21 people die due to heroin or opioid drugs. York County agencies have formed an Opiate Task Force, which include members of the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and health care officials. According to the Portland Press Herald, in 2010, only 8 patients received Narcan treatment in York County. By 2014, that number jumped to 43.