A mobile needle exchange program that's been operating in Lewiston has agreed to stop giving away sterile needles, after local police warned that it doesn't have the appropriate state certification.
Jesse Harvey runs the program, which he calls the "Church of Safe Injection." He says while he doesn't agree with the decision, he'll stop distributing needles, but will continue handing out other supplies that can help reduce harm to drug users.
"We'll be distributing everything else, including the opioid poisoning reversal agent naloxone," Harvey says. We've already distributed a little over 50 doses of naloxone along with the sterile syringes."
There are needle exchanges certified by Maine's Center for Disease Control, in Portland, Augusta, Bangor, Ellsworth and Machias.
The Maine CDC didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.
In an emailed statement, the Lewiston Police department said Harvey is in violation of state law prohibiting him from possessing 11 or more hypodermic needles unless he's part of a CDC-certified program, which Harvey is not.
The statement says it is the department's understanding that Harvey plans to apply with the state to open needle exchange programs.