Maine law is causing more death and disease among people who use drugs (PWUD). Not only does Maine state law penalize those who call 911 to report drug poisoning (the state has no Good Samaritan 911 law)- the state also under provides harm reduction services such as syringe exchange and naloxone distribution, and criminalizes the actions of those who seek to provide these services on their own. The message is clear- that PWUD aren’t important enough to save. Furthermore, the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) will not allow peers- PWUD and people with lived experience (PWLE)to offer these services- they would prefer a nonprofit that operates within the corporate harm reduction industrial complex do this work. None of this empowers marginalized populations- instead it tokenizes them. The state toots its horn and checks off its boxes while depriving people of critical healthcare and human dignity.
In September of 2018 my organization, the Church of Safe Injection, began providing unsanctioned syringe exchange services in the state’s second most populous city: Lewiston. We received favorable press attention and many letters of support. The Maine CDC had the opportunity to interpret the law and protect our lifesaving work and protect the lives of the Mainers it is entrusted with protecting. Instead, they told the Lewiston Police Department to shut us down, depriving Maine residents of this critical public health service that is shown to reduce HIV and Hepatitis C, increase rates of treatment and help-seeking behavior, and generate massive cost savings for society. Then on World AIDS Day the Maine CDC had the nerve to share the post in [Appendix A], and they were, rightly so, blasted for this murderous hypocrisy.
This speaks to a much broader issue: how society disempowers already marginalized people by robbing them of control over their own bodies. I am a student in a Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) and I realize that I have lived a life of extraordinary privilege, as have most other students in CRPs. But there are hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people in this country who will never make it to a CRP because they live under oppressive laws that are designed to kill them. So I work towards ending the structural violence against my peers who lack the privilege that I have always had. Many other students in our CRP have expressed an interest in doing the same. We seek to do our part to end the Drug War, to end the lethal reign of the abstinence-only paradigm.
If you are interested in learning more, please email me at Jesse.PortlandOPS@gmail.com