A recovery advocate has been charged with assault after an incident at the Maine Medical Center emergency room last week.

Jesse Harvey, the founder of multiple recovery houses and a vocal supporter of needle exchange programs, was arrested twice in Portland in July. He also is charged with operating under the influence, three drug charges and two counts of violating bail conditions.

Harvey, 27, did not return a voicemail or other messages Friday. He told WGME that he is currently in treatment. His lawyer also did not return a phone call Friday.

In recent years, Harvey has become well known in the recovery community. He founded Journey House Recovery, which runs four recovery homes in Maine for low-income people. He operated the unconventional Church of Safe Injection, hosting mobile sites to distribute sterile needles last year. But public health experts said that program was in a legal gray area, and police eventually told him to stop.

Harvey is no longer the executive director of Journey House Recovery, but he has been working toward opening a recovery house that is inclusive of all gender and sexual identities. It is unclear how his arrest will affect that plan.

Court documents show a Portland police officer arrested Harvey on July 23 after a traffic accident near Park Avenue. The officer witnessed him hit another car, although no one was injured, and then Harvey failed multiple field sobriety tests. He was transported to the Cumberland County Jail and ultimately released on bail. He was charged with criminal OUI and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs – both misdemeanors.


Jesse Harvey Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Harvey was arrested again the next day. On July 24, an emergency room nurse told police she went into the waiting room bathroom to check on a man who was reportedly injecting drugs. When she tried to intervene, he sprayed her with the contents of a syringe. Portland police responded and arrested him. He was eventually charged with three felonies – assault, unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs. Those drug charges appear to be elevated because of the amounts involved.

He was also charged with two misdemeanors for violating his bail conditions. Harvey was again released from jail on bail.

Journey House Recovery recently hired Ashley Reny as its next executive director. Reny has been working as the director at one of the organization’s residences, and she previously managed a women’s recovery house.

“We are so grateful for founder Jesse Harvey’s leadership and vision,” Reny said in the news release about her new position. “Journey House proudly affirms and supports multiple pathways to recovery and recognizes that we all need to take time to work on our own individual path to wellness.”

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