Jesse Harvey talks to visitors outside Journey House Sober Living’s newest house on Oak Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

PORTLAND — Jesse Harvey, who had tried to issue sterile needles to drug users in Lewiston and Auburn, was free on bail Friday after being arrested twice in Portland.

According to WGME, Harvey was arrested July 23 when a police officer saw Harvey cause a rear-end car crash in Portland. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and depressants, according to police reports.

Already charged with OUI and unlawful drug possession, Harvey, 27, was arrested again on July 24, accused of assaulting an Emergency Room nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

WGME reported that according to a court affidavit, Harvey’s mother asked hospital staff to check on her son because she believed he was in the waiting room bathroom using drugs.

In the document, the nurse writes that she and a security guard found Harvey standing over the sink, injecting a clear liquid into his arm. According to reports, Harvey is accused of grabbing a second needle and squirting a nurse in the face with what he described as methamphetamine.

According to court documents, officers found a bag containing meth in the bathroom. After he was charged with assault, Harvey was freed from jail on bail.

He did not respond to messages left Thursday.

Harvey, who describes himself as a recovery advocate, founded Journey House, which offers several sober living homes in Maine, one of them in Lewiston. He has since stepped down from his position with that group.

Jesse Harvey waits in the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Auburn in hopes that someone would come to exchange a dirty needle for a clean one. (Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dilli

In November, Harvey stopped giving away needles in Lewiston after he was warned by police. He had been offering needle exchanges from the back of his car near Kennedy Park.

After he was warned about the practice, Harvey said he would stop issuing needles but would continue to hand out naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdoses.

In the spring, the Auburn Police Department warned Harvey that he would be charged with a misdemeanor if he distributed sterile needles during a needle exchange and Narcan distribution event at the First Universalist Church on Pleasant Street.

The arrest didn’t happen — likely because police presence deterred anyone from showing up.

Harvey told Auburn police that his Church of the Safe Injection had no official certification, but was “called on by a higher authority to do the work that we do.”

“They’re setting (drug users) up to go to jail, to die, to live horrible lives, instead of meeting them where they’re at and helping them,” Harvey told a reporter at the time. “Syringes should not be criminalized.”

He had founded the church in 2018 after becoming disheartened with the small number of needle exchange programs in Maine.

In addition to the sober house in Lewiston, he operates two in Sanford with business partner Eric Skillings, one for men that accommodates 10 residents and one for women that accommodates six.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: