All Jeannie Chapman remembers from her overdose was drawing the heroin into the needle, sticking it in her arm and then waking up in an ambulance. Though she had come close to dying, she pleaded, unsuccessfully, with the paramedics not to take her to the hospital because using drugs violated her court-ordered probation.
Her probation was the result of the darkest point in a decades-long battle with drug use: 15 months earlier, on July 25, 2016, she had struck a man with her car in a downtown Bangor crosswalk while he was playing the viral phone app game Pokemon Go. It resulted in a felony assault conviction on her record and her name all over the internet.
Indeed, a probation officer was waiting to arrest Chapman when she left the emergency room in Bangor later on the night of her overdose, Oct. 12, 2017. The next day, she was released from the Penobscot County Jail and ordered to enroll in substance use counseling. But the idea of total abstinence made her panic, and she was back in trouble with the law less than a month later for backing her car into a ditch with a blood alcohol level of 0.09 percent, just over the legal limit, according to a police report.
Addiction and its consequences send waves of people like Chapman, 39, into Maine’s criminal justice system, where punitive sanctions such as jail can leave them worse off or simply fail to address the underlying disease of addiction.
On June 26, Chapman graduated from the Penobscot County Adult Drug Treatment Court, one of eight such diversion programs within Maine’s criminal justice system that blends court supervision with treatment. The program has gained widespread support as a way to combat an opioid crisis that kills about one Mainer a day, as it nearly did Chapman.