Grounded in the principle of “meeting people where they’re at, but not leaving them there,” harm reduction practices aim to reduce the harms associated with substance use by providing non-judgmental services and supports to people who use drugs. Strongly supported by evidence, a wide-range of harm reduction practices exist that reduce risk of overdose, overdose death, infectious disease transmission, and other substance use-related harms. Harm reduction services include syringe access, overdose education and naloxone distribution, fentanyl test strips, agonist-based medications for opioid use disorder, safer use supplies, wound care, housing support, and social supports, among many others. For decades, harm reduction organizations have provided life-saving essential services to people who use drugs and their communities.
In 2020, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), launched Preventing Overdose and Increasing Access to Harm Reduction Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This initiative provided $500,000 in rapid response funding grants to 16 harm reduction organizations across the nation to support harm reduction services throughout the pandemic. In addition to funding support, the National Council is working in partnership with CDC to develop training and technical assistance tools to increase adoption of effective harm reduction practices nationwide.
During the pandemic, many organizations that provide care to people who use drugs (PWUD) quickly transitioned from in-person care to telehealth and technology-assisted services. To better support organizations that provide care to PWUD, the National Council, with support from the CDC, developed this resource guide organized by five strategies to address implementation challenges and leverage these advances to improve the health and wellness of PWUD.
To better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on harm reduction organizations and people who use drugs, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted an environmental scan consisting of a literature review and 21 key informant interviews with staff from harm reduction organizations in the U.S.
- Harm Reduction is About Hope and Saving People’s Lives
- Harm Reduction: Essential Now and Always
- Understanding Harm Reduction: Part 1 – National Council Distributes Grants to 16 Harm Reduction Organizations to Address Nation’s Overdose Crisis
- Understanding Harm Reduction: Part 2 – Harm Reduction Advocates Step Up to Help People in Crisis
- Understanding Harm Reduction: Part 3 – Harm Reduction Advocates Face Hurdles and Hope