Naloxone Hydrochloride Credit: Keith Srakocic | AP

In the right hands, naloxone can be a lifesaving drug, and according to law enforcement, that now includes people finishing up jail sentences.

State law enforcement leaders say eight different counties have implemented a medical-assisted treatment program at their jails and prisons, including Cumberland County, where Narcan is being distributed to inmates who are re-entering society.

“Until we can get those folks the help they need to separate them, and it’s a difficult way to do it, we have to protect everybody,” Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce says the program does not use taxpayer dollars and comes from a statewide grant.

“And it kind of matriculated through Portland Public Health, who gave it to us, and they’ve provided us with the training,” Joyce said. “They will come in and sometimes train the inmates as well on how to adequately use it.”

The kit comes with a small dose of naloxone, as well as an informational packet on how to use it.

Sheriff Joyce says Narcan is safe to distribute because it has no negative effect if administered to someone who is not overdosing.

“The Narcan is inert if an individual is not having an opioid overdose, so it has no negative effects if it’s used,” Joyce said.

He said the program went into effect Wednesday.

Some state leaders say they’ve heard complaints about whether or not the state should use money and resources on people in jail.

Sheriff Joyce says that addiction is a disease and everyone deserves to receive help.

“If somebody is using whatever drug, we’re going to help save their life,” Joyce said. “They’re a human. They’re a person, and we’re going to do what we have to do to save their life.”

Seven other counties in Maine are working on a similar program.

State leaders say Narcan is legal for anyone to buy, and they encourage people to go to one of many free training sessions to learn how to use it.