A record number of Mainers died from drug overdoses in 2021. In all likelihood, that record won’t last the year.

Portland paramedics respond to a report that a woman had overdosed on heroin near the intersection of Congress and India streets in 2015; she regained consciousness after being administered naloxone. Passing L.D. 1862 would close a loophole in Maine law that continues to leave people at the scene open to arrest or prosecution for calling to report an overdose. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

With deadly drugs available widely, we can expect the deaths to continue to climb, devastating families and whole communities. Many of the necessary responses, such as increasing access to treatment, take time – and with hundreds of Mainers dying every year, we simply don’t have it.

A bill before the Legislature could buy more time. L.D. 1862, a bipartisan bill from Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, would expand the state’s Good Samaritan law, shielding people at the site of an overdose from arrest or prosecution for most offenses, making it more likely someone will call 911 and save a life.

The bill will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday in front of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Legislators will hear just how important a phone call can be.

At a recent online event in support of the bill held by the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, people shared stories of the loved ones they lost forever because others were too afraid to call 911.

They told stories of people being left in alleyways, tents and on the sidewalk because the people they were with had drugs on them, or they were on probation.


It is a horrible spot to be in, having to choose between getting medical aid for someone and putting yourself at risk of a felony arrest, and doing nothing and hoping it works out, as it often does.

Except when it doesn’t.

One person at the recovery event recalled her friend, who had five years of sobriety and was working to repair her life and relationships when she relapsed. In the panic around her, no one called 911, and she died.

“It was someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s friend. My friend,” the speaker said.

In another case of a fatal overdose, 911 was called, but only after the scene was cleared of drugs and the people there had figured out how to deal with the police if they arrived.

“This took planning,” the person said. “Planning took time, and time took his life.”


Maine passed a Good Samaritan law in 2019, with unanimous backing from the Legislature and the signature of Gov. Mills. It shielded the person who calls 911 as well as the victim from arrest or prosecution for some crimes.

It passed because everyone involved recognized that in a medical emergency people should feel safe calling for help, whatever the circumstances.

But advocates across the state say it is not enough. The law still leaves people at the scene of an emergency open to arrest or prosecution, and it shows. One after another, people in recovery tell stories of panic and confusion at the site of an overdose, all because people aren’t sure what to do.

Passing L.D. 1862, and educating people about it, would make it clear to people present at an overdose that calling 911 will bring nothing more than medical help. It will make clear to police who are responding to an overdose that they are there to provide emergency assistance, and that alone.

It will save lives. And when it comes to the drug epidemic, that’s all that matters.

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