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Shannon Mace, JD, MPH

Senior Practice Improvement Advisor for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Harm Reduction: Essential Now and Always

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the systemic and structural challenges faced by people who use drugs into focus. As communities across the U.S. face entirely new experiences of social isolation, grief, economic instability and diminished hope about the future, overdose incidents are steadily increasing.

Despite challenges to officially deem harm reduction providers as essential workers, they have always been essential. In many communities, during the pandemic, they are the sole lifeline for individuals at risk of overdose death and other substance use-related harms. Understanding the value of harm reduction services, especially during the pandemic, the American Medical Association advocates for full support of harm reduction, including increased access to syringe services programs.

Grounded in principles centered on “meeting people where they’re at, but not leaving them there,” and offering a spectrum of strategies and supports, harm reduction organizations have quickly adapted to ensure that people who use drugs continue to have access to evidence-based services and supports throughout the pandemic, despite facing multiple challenges.

In full support of harm reduction providers, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has launched a new funding opportunity – Preventing Overdose and Increasing Access to Harm Reduction Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Rapid response awards will be provided to as many as 15 organizations in amounts up to $33,000 to support harm reduction services throughout the pandemic. The National Council looks forward to working with harm reduction leaders throughout this six-month opportunity to meet the needs of individuals who use drugs.

Resources for people who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic:

For more information about the National Council’s efforts to support harm reduction, contact us!

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