We are writing in response to your Aug. 2 article “Well-known Maine recovery advocate faces charges.” The article’s subtitle states: “Jesse Harvey, the founder of Journey House Recovery and the Church of Safe Injection, is accused of assault, OUI and drug possession.”

This article villainizes Harvey, suggesting that, despite all of his accomplishments in recovery and harm-reduction advocacy, he and other people who use drugs are still only criminals who perpetuate harm and violence, instead of people with a disease who are targeted by the police and systematically kept from accessing health care.

The Portland Press Herald does not report on every overdose death – and this situation could have easily turned into an overdose death had Harvey been unable to enter a treatment facility so quickly – but they chose to report on one individual’s relapse, without regard for that individual, for people who use drugs or for recovery spaces. By making Harvey’s health struggle headline news, the Press Herald has promoted the stigmatization of all people who use drugs and of recovery spaces. It cannot be emphasized enough: Stigma, including public shaming like the Aug. 2 article, kills.

Rather than holding true to the opinions expressed by the Editorial Board on Feb. 26, 2018, in “Our View: In opioid fight, stigma remains a huge barrier,” the Press Herald’s news reporting targeted Harvey – along with many advocates who are also in recovery themselves – and added another brick to the barrier that is stigma, showing the local recovery community that the Press Herald supports only “nice” and sober recovery advocates.

We demand that the Press Herald retract the Aug. 2 article that publicly shames Harvey and perpetuates the stigma about people who use drugs and issue an apology for the damage they have caused to both the individual and the greater community.

Angel Melvin

Elizabeth Handschy

members, Portland Overdose Prevention Society

Portland

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