Mike Pescaro

Maine Addiction Recovery Advocate Arrested After Car Crash, Alleged Assault

A Maine addiction recovery advocate was arrested after an assault and a car crash.

Portland Police say 27-year-old Jesse Harvey crashed into a car and failed a sobriety test, then the following the day, assaulted a nurse at a hospital while under the influence of drugs.

Prior to his arrest, Harvey had been executive director of Journey House, a non-profit he helped found that provides affordable housing for people in recovery.

In early 2019, Harvey attracted a lot of local media attention in Maine when he convened a "Church of Safe Injection," saying he would give clean needles to people who wanted them despite that being illegal in Maine.

But last week, Harvey caused some surprise and concern again when affidavits became public showing his OUI arrest after the crash and the allegations that he assaulted a nurse at the Maine Medical Center emergency room.

Court documents show on the night of July 24, Harvey was thought to be overdosing in a bathroom there.

When a nurse entered the room, he allegedly sprayed her in the face and mouth with a clear liquid from a syringe that he said was methamphetamine.

Police were called and they arrested Harvey for charges of assault, drug trafficking and drug possession.

Harvey was also known as the executive director and founder of Journey House, an affordable housing network for addicts in recovery.

Karine Odlin, president of Journey House's board of directors, said the organization parted ways with Harvey a short time after his arrest.

"I was really sad and scared for Jesse. Jesse's a friend of mine," she said. "Luckily, Jesse hadn't been involved in the day-to-day operations for some time."

Asked if she was surprised at Harvey's arrest, Odlin said, "yes and no."

"Jesse was a very passionate and visible figure," she said. "I think that's why it's sort of a shock to people that it happens to anybody."

Others in Maine's recovery community agree and say Harvey's administrative role prevented any harm from coming to people living in homes.

"The operation of the houses and the welfare of the residences was in no way compromised because of Jesse's situation," said Dr. Ron Springel, a member of the government affairs committee for the Maine Association of Recovery Residences.

Among its other duties, MARR certifies that recovery homes meet certain standards for quality and ethics.

Springel says incidents like Harvey's point out recovery programs' strengths and weaknesses a new law passed this session by Maine's legislature aims to fix, though all for Journey House homes meet those standards.

"Three years ago, there were no certified houses in Maine," he said. "There is now incentive for houses to become certified."

The new law provides grant money for houses the meet voluntary certifications.

If MARR sees a violation, the house is put under review.

"We establish a review, we go back in, we review all their standards and their policies," said Springel, adding that Journey House was correct to remove Harvey immediately.

Harvey, who has posted bail, responded to the charges against him in a Monday text message.

"I'm sorry to all those who I've hurt. I'm not trying to hide anything," he said. "I am facing criminal charges. People who know me know that I am not a violent person. I'd ask that people reserve judgment until I'm tried and convicted, but it is their right to judge me now if they so choose."

Harvey's court dates are set for fall 2019.

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