A sign commemorating Kari Morissette stands in front of the Church of Safe Injection on Wednesday in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Kari Morissette, executive director of the Church of Safe Injection, has died.

Kari Morissette, executive director of the Church of Safe Injection, died Friday.  Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

According to organization officials, Morissette died Friday, May 6, at the age of 33. No cause of death was listed.

In announcing Morissette’s passing, peers described her as “a fierce advocate and friend to people who use drugs, fighting for their health, rights and dignity. Under her leadership, the Church of Safe Injection became certified as a state Syringe Service Program through the Maine (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) to operate in Westbrook, Lewiston, Rumford, Bethel and Dixfield. Their brick-and-mortar program and administrative office is at 195 Main Street in Lewiston.”

Morissette was also active in the state Legislature where she lobbied for laws to help connect people to recovery services and to “dismantle systems that oppress marginalized communities.” She was also a certified intentional peer support specialist and recovery coach at Spurwink Services in Portland.

“Kari shared her heart with everyone,” according to the announcement, posted at mainehomelessplanning.org. “From volunteering for the Maine Association of Recovery Residences and conducting focus groups to facilitating meetings for people who experienced sexual assault and trafficking, Kari was always the first to offer her time, her love and her wisdom.”

“We love Kari and we are shattered by her loss,” said Zoe Brokos, director of operations for the Church of Safe Injection. “We are grieving the loss of our beloved friend, a fierce advocate, and a respected leader in the recovery and harm reduction communities. Kari was one-of-a-kind. She was brave, compassionate, and visionary. She was unwavering in her commitment that people who use drugs should have safety, community and hope. Every single person Kari met was motivated by her love and positivity. That is the legacy she leaves with us. We dedicate our work to Kari’s memory and the statement she lived by: We learn, we grow and we keep it moving.”


In Lewiston, the safe needle exchange program kicked off Feb. 1 on Main Street. The group had been founded in 2018 by Jesse Harvey, a controversial figure who died of a drug overdose in 2020.

Flower arrangements displayed in used sharps containers line the windows of the Church of Safe Injection in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“We distribute safe supplies in hopes of stopping people from reusing and sharing supplies so that we can lower endocarditis rates, HIV and hepatitis C, and we distribute naloxone in hopes of lowering overdose rates,” Morissette said at that event.

On social media more recently, Morissette had posted on Facebook May 5, the day before her death, to update friends on the resolution of a criminal case out of Florida. It’s an energetic and positive post and gives no indication that Morissette was experiencing physical or emotional distress.

Friends, co-workers and people who had been helped by Morissette also took to Facebook to express their thoughts on her passing. Those messages came from across the country.

“Our connection runs the gamut,” wrote one Florida woman, “from the mean streets of Miami to the beautiful journey in recovery. I hope and pray your spirit is finally and eternally at peace. Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

“Please know you have always been a shining light for me,” wrote a woman in Schenectady, New York. “Ever since I relapsed, you have always answered the phone for me no matter what.”


Kari Morissette’s name is added to the Never Forget board at the Church of Safe Injection in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“You were such an amazing person, advocate, and prominent community member making strides for change in our community,” wrote a young woman in South Portland. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for the community. You will be missed by many.”

“You have made a difference on this planet,” offered a woman on Prince Edward Island.

“I can’t believe this beautiful soul is gone,” wrote a woman in Biddeford.

“Kari, you did so many amazing, beautiful, revolutionary, and ground-breaking things while you graced this earth,” wrote a Portland man. “We will continue to do to the work now with you in our hearts and minds.”

In an unsigned notice from the Church of Safe Injection, organization leaders, too, vowed to keep up with the work to which Morissette had dedicated her life.

“There are not enough words to express this loss and the impact it will have on our hearts,” according to the notice, posted on Facebook May 7. “But know this, Kari would want us to keep working and that’s what we will do. In her honor and always in the ways she taught us: Deep, to the core love and unwavering respect.”

The group is planning a gathering to honor Morissette on Sunday, May 22, at the Eastern Promenade gazebo in Portland.

According to the announcement, Morissette is survived by a daughter, two sisters, a brother and a father, “plus so many people who loved her exactly for who she was.”

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