The strongest Good Samaritan law in the country went into full effect Aug. 8 in Maine. The revised law provides increased protections for a person who is experiencing an overdose, seeking medical treatment for, or otherwise looking after a person experiencing an overdose. By helping to eliminate the fear of legal repercussions from law enforcement, individuals at the scene of an overdose are empowered to call for medical assistance without hesitation.

According to the CDC, Maine reported 614 fatal overdoses in the past year –– a 22% increase from the year before. The magnitude of these losses has weighed heavily on Mainers across the state. This trailblazing law is supported by years of research showing a reduction of overdose incidences by up to 15% in states that enact Good Samaritan Laws. With overdoses continually rising nationwide, Maine’s Good Samaritan Law is an example for the rest of the country to follow by prioritizing saving lives over punishment.

The new law protects individuals from arrest and prosecution for specific non-violent or drug-related crimes; revocation of bail, probation, or deferred disposition for the aforementioned crimes; and arrest on an outstanding warrant for the aforementioned crimes. These additional protections explicitly do not extend to any person who has committed violent crimes, sex crimes, or crimes against children –– including but not limited to manslaughter, domestic violence, gross or unlawful sexual conduct, child abandonment and endangerment of a child’s welfare.

Sen. Chloe Maxmin of Nobleboro, the bill’s sponsor and a member of the Expand Good Sam Coalition, said, “The expansion of Maine’s Good Samaritan law is an example of what happens when directly impacted people speak up about the policies and laws that need to change –– and legislators listen. I am grateful to everyone who joined us in declaring that we will not lose one more person to avoidable overdose death without a fight. While there is more to do, we can be proud that the Maine legislature has led the nation in this first step prioritizing saving our citizens’ lives.”

Courtney Allen, organizing director of Maine Recovery Advocacy Project and also a member of the Coalition, said, “The expansion of the Good Samaritan law affirms what we already knew: people who use drugs do not deserve to die. It sends a clear message that in Maine, we believe saving peoples’ lives is more important than charging them with minor criminal offenses. Today, our coalition reaffirms our commitment to building on this win by calling for an increased number of detox beds, investment in recovery support, and the decriminalization of personal possession of small quantities of drugs. We will continue to fight for and with our community, today and every day.”

The Expand Good Sam Coalition is comprised of harm reduction and recovery advocates, organizers, allies, and survivors of the drug war in Maine. Learn more about the new legislation here.