“A major part of the health care crisis is the opioid epidemic,” Mills said during her inaugural address on Jan. 2. Drug overdoses killed a record 70,000 people in the U.S. in 2017, and Mills said her administration would create a director of opiate response to “marshal the collective power and resources of state government,” in honor of the 418 Maine residents who died of drug overdoses that year. Maine is among the states that had the biggest increases in overdose deaths between 2017 and 2018.
Mills’ inauguration has created a swell of hope among public health and addiction experts, who looked forward to the prospect of Medicaid expansion in Maine. They also welcome Mills’ progressive attitude toward opioid addiction, which differs significantly from the views of her predecessor, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage.