The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a federal grant focused on community-based harm reduction services, supporting groups that help provide Naloxone and other vital tools to people with substance use disorder.
The grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is the first of its kind. Conservatives have been skeptical of the usefulness of harm reduction efforts. The funds, meant to help prevent overdoses and needle-spread diseases, have come under scrutiny almost as soon as they were announced. There is still much stigma and misunderstanding surrounding addiction and recovery.
What Is Harm Reduction?
Typically, harm reduction efforts are focused on the deadliest drugs, such as fentanyl and heroin. When targeting opioid users, the focus is on preventing death and disease. Some efforts, like needle exchange programs, have been around for ages. Unfortunately, many people still consider them controversial. But the idea behind the efforts is to save lives.
Harm reduction may include efforts like needle exchange, drug overdose reversal tools such as Naloxone, and fentanyl testing kids. Some people consider safe sex tools such as condoms to be an essential part of harm reduction as well. Unfortunately, many addicted persons resort to sex work to help them pay for their addiction.
The Grants May Save Lives
The point of harm reduction is to help save the life of the addicted person through health and safety tools. Many people who can reduce harm in their lives later move on to get clean and sober. But if they overdose, they will not be able to live long enough to get clean. This is where tools can save a life.
Organizations receiving the funds would have three years to spend the money and only buy things on a pre-approved list of tools and resources. Kits typically include things like Naloxone, alcohol swabs, and clean needles.
None of the activities involve providing safe “crack pipes,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday. Instead, they WILL include “alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis,” she noted.