MaineHealth, a healthcare network connecting 12 hospitals in Maine and New Hampshire, has received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for a statewide overdose and infection prevention program focused on harm reduction.

The program, Distribution of Harm Reduction Access in Rural Maine Areas (Project DHARMA), is a collaboration among MaineHealth and several community organizations including public health agencies, syringe service programs, academic institutions and other treatment providers. Its goals are to provide clients of syringe service programs in Maine’s rural counties with harm reduction supplies and to connect them with care for infectious disease prevention and treatment, wound care and substance use.

“As overdose deaths are at an all-time high in Maine, we feel an urgent need to improve the health of people in our communities,” said Kristen Silvia, MD, an addiction medicine specialist who is co-leading Project DHARMA with infectious disease and addiction specialist Kinna Thakarar, DO, MPH.

Harm reduction outreach specialists embedded in local syringe service programs will dispense fentanyl test strips and wound care kits, as well as naloxone to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. They also will partner with Colby College to use spectrometry-based drug checking to help identify how much fentanyl and other contaminants are present in drugs circulating in Maine communities.

Collaborators include Maine Office of Behavioral Health, Maine CDC, 14 federally qualified health centers, academic partners and treatment providers throughout the state, as well as a Harm Reduction Advisory Council.