In its updated Harm Reduction policy statement, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) reaffirms its support of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to substance use, centering harm reduction and equity in order to curb transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases, prevent overdose, and, ultimately, to promote the health and well-being of people who use drugs (PWUD).
Harm reduction is an evidenced-based approach that aims to reduce the negative consequences associated with drug use. In addition, it is a movement for social justice that is built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of PWUD.
As the national voice for local health departments (LHDs), NACCHO informs federal policy makers of the crucial role that these agencies play in keeping communities both healthy and safe. Policy statements support and inform NACCHO’s national advocacy for LHDs and programmatic work. In addition, these statements support local voices in policy development, programs, and stakeholder education. LHDs are encouraged to utilize these statements as models for their community.
NACCHO calls for robust, flexible funding, supportive policies, and implementation of harm reduction strategies in the updated Harm Reduction policy statement. This statement was expanded to include, not only the benefits of syringe service programs (SSPs), but also other life-saving harm reduction strategies such as the provision of safer smoking supplies, overdose prevention sites, decriminalization, as well as other non-carceral approaches to substance use.
LHDs are at the forefront of the opioid epidemic and are local leaders in HIV and viral hepatitis prevention and care. Their strong community partnerships and public health expertise position them to normalize a harm reduction approach by implementing and supporting harm reduction interventions. Federal, state, and local policy makers can support harm reduction efforts at the local level by increasing funding and addressing other policy related barriers.
In the coming months, NACCHO will develop further guidance and resources for local health departments to use with regards to harm reduction. These “policy/practice” briefs will further expand on harm reduction strategies detailed in the original policy statement. Topics will include the benefits of safer smoking supply provision, syringe litter, substance use and adolescent health, as well as stakeholder education. Please contact Anjana Rao ([email protected]) with any requests for additional policy/practice briefs. Read NACCHO’s full updated policy statement at the following link.