Maine DHHS announces text alert program to prevent overdose deaths

Sun, 06/27/2021 - 6:00pm

AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Partnership to End Addiction launched a free texting service that alerts Maine residents to any sudden increase in overdoses in their counties and connects them with resources that can save lives, support those struggling with substance use, and promote recovery.

Residents — including parents, caregivers, medical professionals, first responders, community groups and those struggling with substance use — in all Maine counties can sign up for the Partnership’s SPIKE Auto Text Program.

Individuals can sign up by texting SPIKE to (855) 963-5669 (855-9-OD-KNOW) and following the prompts.

The program will link them to resources through Maine’s OPTIONS initiative, which is placing mobile response teams in each Maine county to engage communities with high rates of drug overdoses to promote harm reduction strategies, connect people directly to recovery services and treatment, and distribute naloxone, the lifesaving overdose medication. The text messaging system can help to prevent overdose deaths by directing individuals to the Know Your OPTIONS website, where they can learn how to get a naloxone kit or contact the OPTIONS liaison in their county.

Those who sign up will receive free notifications on their mobile device if three or more fatal or non-fatal overdoses occur in their county within a 24-hour period.

Maine is the first state to launch the program statewide. Partnership to End Addiction is piloting the program in three counties in New York and one county in Tennessee, with plans to expand nationwide.

“Offering text alerts when overdoses start to increase is another way we can help people with substance use disorder stay safe, enter treatment, and most important, stay alive,” said Gordon Smith, the state’s Director of Opioid Response. “These notifications will help empower the community with information, which is a key to further addressing the opioid epidemic in Maine and protecting our friends, family and neighbors. I applaud DHHS and Partnership to End Addiction for making this free service available.”

“So long as Maine continues to lose lives to drug overdoses, we will continue and expand our work to help those struggling with substance use disorder,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “This program provides free and potentially life-saving information that Maine people and communities can use immediately to prevent and respond to overdoses.”

The SPIKE Auto Text Program uses data from the national Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), which was developed by the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to collect and analyze reports about drug overdoses from communities. Maine was one of the first states to implement ODMAP statewide, with approximately 80 agencies now signed up to provide real-time overdose data, while also protecting personally identifying information.

“ODMAP is a tool that allows for communities to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders in the effort to combat drug overdoses,” said Marquis Johnson, ODMAP Program Coordinator. “We are excited to see the State of Maine and Partnership to End Addiction utilizing their resources to prevent overdoses."

Last week, the Maine Attorney General’s Office released a new report showing that 504 deaths were caused by drug overdoses in 2020, a 33% increase over 380 in 2019.

In addition to launching the SPIKE Auto Text Program, Maine is taking numerous actions to support people with substance use disorder and save lives, including expanding the OPTIONS program; purchasing 168,767 doses and distributing 89,336 doses of naloxone through public health and harm reduction organizations, which helped reverse 2,217 reported opioid overdoses; recruiting and training more than 530 new recovery coaches; increasing the number of Recovery Residences from 101 to 120, and the number of Recovery Community Centers from 9 to 13; and continuing to invest in the opioid response and mental health services.