Harm Reduction

The State of Maine’s drug response prioritizes the reduction in fatal and nonfatal overdoses by ensuring low-barrier access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. Harm reduction strategies in Maine include providing resources and referrals to folks experiencing homelessness or at high risk of drug overdose, facilitating access to syringes to prevent the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV, and engaging providers, law enforcement, and the public in harm reduction practices and strategies.


Know your OPTIONS

Wherever you are in your journey, you are not alone. The Maine OPTIONS initiative, which stands for Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety, can direct you to local harm reduction, treatment, recovery, and prevention services. Learn where you can get harm reduction supplies, what you can do to save a life, when you should call 9-1-1, and who you can turn to with questions regarding substance use, treatment, and recovery.

Get Naloxone

image of intranasal and intramuscular naloxone

Naloxone is a medication to have on hand in case of an opioid emergency. It is designed to reverse the effects of opioids in the body. In Maine, you can obtain naloxone through harm reduction and public health organizations or by contacting your physician or local pharmacist. Have a conversation today at your regional syringe access program or contact Maine Access Points or Health Equity Alliance to arrange for naloxone pickup or to have naloxone mailed to your home.

Use safely during COVID-19.

image of protective face covering

Using substances safely is always important; but it is even more so now during the global pandemic. Here are some guidelines to follow with Maine’s current situation in mind.

  • Use your own supplies when using drugs to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can still get the supplies that you need, like naloxone, sterile syringes, and fentanyl test strips at your local syringe access program.
  • Assign someone to check in with you (via text, phone, or teleconferencing) before and after you use.
  • Test your drugs using fentanyl test strips since drug supplies and batches are frequently changing during the pandemic.
  • Try using a small amount at first and progress slowly.
  • If you are using with someone else, do it safely by making sure you are staying six feet apart from each other and you are both wearing masks or cloth face coverings.
  • Have naloxone nearby, and call 9-1-1 immediately during a suspected overdose.

Community and public health partners are distributing state-supplied naloxone throughout Maine.

In July of 2019, the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative launched an overdose education, prevention and naloxone distribution project. Public health and harm reduction partners, know as Tier 1 Distributors, began distributing state-supplied naloxone rescue kits across Maine to clinicians, community partners, and end users.

This metric tracks the doses of naloxone distributed into Maine’s communities as well as the opioid overdose reversals reported by community partners. This metric is an indicator of naloxone saturation. The data is provided by public health and harm reduction partners. The data is updated monthly.

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Source: University of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative.

Source: University of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative.

Source: University of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative.


Syringe access helps prevent HIV and other bloodborne pathogens while helping to reduce overdose deaths.

In 2019, seven Syringe Access Programs operated in the State of Maine, located in Augusta, Bangor, Belfast, Ellsworth, Machias, Portland and Waterville. Research shows that Syringe Access Programs can reduce new Hepatitis C and HIV cases by an estimated 50% and they reduce overdose deaths by providing overdose education, naloxone, and fentanyl testing supplies to their enrollees.

This metric tracks the location of Syringe Access Programs (SAP) in the State of Maine, the number of enrollees in SAPs, and the number of syringe exchanges occurring at SAPs. This metric is an indicator of the number of individuals seeking harm reduction supplies as well as the points of contact SAPs have with persons who use drugs. The data is provided by ME CDC and is updated annually. The annual report consists of data from November through October. Individuals may be enrolled in multiple programs and data is not unduplicated. Exchanges do not equal the number of syringes distributed or received.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Syringe Service Programs in Maine Annual Report, 2019.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Syringe Service Programs in Maine Annual Report, 2019.

Syringe Access Programs refer enrollees to other services including substance-use disorder treatment, housing, and medical care.

Syringe access facilities provide an important link to health services for their surrounding communities including bloodborne pathogen testing, treatment for Hepatitis C and HIV, housing, medication-assisted treatment, and primary care facilities.

This metric is an indicator of individual and community health and wellness linkages provided by Syringe Access Programs. The data is provided by ME CDC and is updated annually. The annual report consists of data from November through October. Individuals may be enrolled in multiple programs and data is not unduplicated.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Syringe Service Programs in Maine Annual Report, 2019.


Maine EMS responds to opioid-related emergencies with naloxone to prevent accidental drug deaths.

Maine EMS responds to a variety of opioid-associated resuscitative emergencies involving patient conditions including chronic pain management for musculoskeletal pain or cancer-related pain, illicit drug use, and intentional overdose. By administering naloxone in the out-of-hospital setting, opioid-related overdoses are reversed and lives are saved.

This metric tracks the incidents responded to by Maine EMS that require the administration of naloxone. This metric is an indicator of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses, both accidental and intentional. This data is provided by Maine EMS. The data is updated annually. Naloxone administrations can occur for non opioid-related incidents as a treatment to respond to unconscious patients.

Click map to enlarge

Source: Maine EMS.

Source: Maine EMS.


In the case of an overdose emergency, calling 9-1-1 and getting transported to the hospital results in the greatest chance of survival.

The Good Samaritan law: On May 23, 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 329, An Act To Exempt from Criminal Liability Persons Reporting a Drug-related Medical Emergency. The law exempts individuals from arrest or prosecution for the possession of illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia as well as violations of probation if they are in good faith calling 9-1-1 to seek medical assistance for another person experiencing a drug-related overdose.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Drug Overdose Morbidity and Mortality Dashboard.

Despite fatal drug overdoses increasing, emergency department visits have remained consistent. Getting transported and treated at the hospital provided a 98.94% average survival rate in 2020.

This metric tracks suspected fatal and nonfatal overdoses in emergency departments. This metric is an indicator of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses, both accidental and intentional. This data is provided by ME CDC. For interactive data regarding drug overdoses in Maine visit the Maine CDC Drug Overdose Morbidity and Mortality dashboard.


In Maine, law enforcement, EMS, public health organizations, and harm reduction programs save lives through naloxone distribution and administration.

There are many organizations distributing and administering naloxone in the State of Maine in an effort to mitigate the opioid overdose crisis. Law enforcement officers carry naloxone through a program administered by the Maine Office of the Attorney General to allow officers arriving first at the scene to begin to medically treat an overdose. EMS routinely carry naloxone to respond to opioid-related emergencies. Recently, in 2019 with the creation of the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative, public health and harm reduction organizations began distributing state-supplied naloxone to clinical sites, community organizations, and end-users throughout the State of Maine.

This metric tracks the composite number of naloxone incidents requiring the administration of naloxone by law enforcement officers, EMS, and community partners. The data is provided by the Maine Office of the Attorney General, OD MAP, Maine EMS, and the Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative (MNDI). Until June 2020, the MNDI was reporting reversals quarterly. This data is updated monthly. Work is being done to unduplicate law enforcement and EMS naloxone administrations and overdose reversals.

Source: Office of the Maine Attorney General and OD MAP provides law enforcement data. Maine EMS provides EMS data. University of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center provides Maine Naloxone Distribution Initiative data.


Navigate the Data