AUGUSTA — The lives of 636 Mainers lost to drug overdoses in 2021 were commemorated Sunday — Black Balloon Day — at the Augusta Civic Center.

Black Balloon Day began with a Massachusetts family hanging a black balloon outside its home in memory of Greg Tremblay, a father of four who died of a drug overdose in 2015 at 38 years old.

One year after Tremblay’s death, more than 42,000 people participated in Black Balloon Day, an event now held throughout the country.

Speakers at the event included Ryan Hampton, an overdose survivor who is in recovery from addiction, and serves as organizing director for The Recovery Advocacy Project. Hampton has also written the books “Unsettled” and “American Fix,” which explore the opioid overdose and addiction crises in America.

Wooden headstones greeted visitors Sunday to the memorial for overdose victims, at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

State Sen. Chloe S. Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, sponsor of bill LD 1862 — An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Good Samaritan Laws Concerning Drug-related Medical Assistance, also spoke at the event.

LD 1862 would allow for exemption from criminal liability for reporting a drug-related overdose or administering naloxone. The text of the bill stipulates those at locations where medical assistance are sought people experiencing and overdose, or experiencing an overdose themselves, could not be arrested or prosecuted for a crime, unless it is a violent crime. They would be shielded from arrest or prosecution for any nonviolent crimes, probation violations or bail condition violations.


If passed, the bill would empower those present during an overdose to call 911 without fear of criminal consequences.

The event was organized by more than a dozen organizations in Maine, all coming together to support the amendment that would expand the scope of protected people under the bill.

Event organizer Courtney Allen, who serves as policy director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said Gov. Janet Mills put forth an amendment Friday that would expand the law only to include those rendering aid on the scene.

Allen said the governor’s amendment would not allow for the protection needed amid the opioid crisis because the definition of “rendering aid” is unclear. Instead, Allen and others at the event advocated for the bill to protect anyone on the scene from prosecution of any nonviolent crimes.

“Our amendment would ensure that everybody on the scene would be protected from all nonviolent crimes, but only for the duration of the overdose, so when 911 shows up to the time 911 leaves,” Allen said. “After that, they could be charged with whatever the criminal justice system believes they need to be charged with, so it’s just really for that one moment in time when we know people need our help, and they need access.”

Attendees listen Sunday to speakers at a memorial for overdose victims, at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Hampton said Maine leads the nation when it comes to organizing state recovery communities.


“It’s fascinating to see how this coalition has quickly grown to be one of the most robust organizing networks of people with lived experience in the entire country,” Hampton said. “What’s happening here on the ground in Maine can be a model for the nation, so I had to come here and see it for myself.”

While visiting a half-dozen states throughout the week, Hampton said his plan is to tell many people about efforts in Maine and how, if passed, the amended bill would create a Good Samaritan Law with the nation’s greatest access.

Hampton said it was unfortunate Mills did not support the more open-ended version of the bill.

“I want to ask Gov. Mills again: ‘What’s the magic number? Is it 1,000 (overdose deaths)? Is it 1,500? Is it 2,000?’ Because that number is just going to keep increasing unless there’s an intervention that supports the recovery community, supports people who need help, supports overdose survivors and supports people who use drugs and their families,” Hampton said.

Attendees display 636 flags Sunday for every Mainer who died of an overdose in 2021, at a memorial for victims at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Maxmin, who represents District 13, said she first became involved with politics because she was deeply angered by the disconnect between politicians and the realities people experience every day.

She said the amendment lost during a Friday work session, and that the next step is for a vote in the Senate, which will not be an easy fight.


As part of the event Friday, Maxmin made herself available at The Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, or ME-RAP, table, where people could ask for the cellphone number of their state senator so they could leave a message in support of the amendment.

“We have to tell them to support our amendment,” Maxmin said. “We have to tell them why it’s important, and we have to tell them that we are watching and we are listening.”

Allen said passing the amendment is crucial.

“We are calling on our senators to pass Sen. Maxmin’s amendment and ensure that we are saving lives,” she said. “The most important thing that we can do is save lives. Nothing else matters in the moment of an overdose.”

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