Maxmin bill to help prevent overdose deaths heads to Gov. Mills

Mon, 04/25/2022 - 8:00pm

AUGUSTA — The state’s senate enacted Monday a bill from Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, to help prevent overdose deaths and save Maine lives.

An amended version of LD 1862, “An Act To Strengthen Maine's Good Samaritan Laws Concerning Drug-related Medical Assistance,” received unanimous, bipartisan support.

Under Maine’s current Good Samaritan law, which became law in 2019, those who seek medical assistance in good faith for someone experiencing an overdose, and the person experiencing the overdose, are immune from arrest and prosecution for a narrow set of crimes if evidence of those crimes is obtained by law enforcement at the scene, according to a news release.

Those in the recovery community reported that confusion about which offenses were included in the law and about who was protected meant people were often too afraid to call 911 in the vast majority of overdose cases, per the release. 

As amended, LD 1862 extends Good Samaritan protections to anyone at the scene of an overdose who seeks medical assistance or who actively renders aid to the overdosing person while awaiting assistance from law enforcement or medical professionals.

It also expands the offenses that are immune from arrest and prosecution to reduce confusion about which offenses are protected under the law. Violent crimes, sex crimes and crimes against children are exempt from the Good Samaritan law and are not subject to protections. Independently obtained evidence of crimes, meaning evidence that was not obtained as a direct result of the call for help, can still be used as the basis of arrest or prosecution.

“I’m in awe of the incredible recovery community that worked hard on this bill, and so thankful to everyone who came together to strengthen this life-saving law,” said Sen. Maxmin. “With a record number of Mainers dying from overdoses, we need to confront the fact that what we’re doing now isn’t working. We listened to the people on the ground, the people who see overdoses in their community regularly, and they told us what needed to change. By improving this law, we’re helping to make sure people aren’t too scared or confused to call 911 when someone they’re with is overdosing. This bill will literally save lives.”

In 2021, 636 Mainers died of overdoses, an increase of almost 25% from 2020.

LD 1862 now goes to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to either sign it into law, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.