As New Jersey’s shelter-in-place order has restricted mobility, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) is pivoting their distribution model to mail essential supplies to individuals managing opioid addictions, while maintaining physical distance requirements.
At the advent of New Jersey’s Coronavirus outbreak, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) quickly secured a partnership with NEXT Naloxone, which operates in 28 states. Fearing a rise in overdose-related injuries owing to delayed emergency response services and the closure of several state harm reduction centers due to a lack of personal protective equipment, NJHRC and NEXT Naloxone are collaborating to provide free naloxone by mail to those who are at the highest risk of witnessing an opioid overdose.
“There is no reason that the COVID-19 crisis should cause another overdose, hepatitis C, or HIV crisis,” said Jenna Mellor, a founding member and Executive Director of NJHRC. “We need to expand harm reduction services to every corner of the state, and mailing out naloxone is the best way to do that in this new era of physical distancing. Everyone deserves access to these life-saving supplies.”
NJHRC and Next Naloxone prioritize free naloxone distribution for people who use drugs, people who recently stopped using drugs, people coming home after incarceration, people leaving treatment, and their families, partners, friends, and roommates. NEXT Naloxone allows individuals who can’t access naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses, to receive it in the mail after completing a brief online training and request form.
“For people who use drugs, isolation can be a death sentence,” said Caitlin O’Neill, a founding member and Director of Harm Reduction Services of NJHRC. “Carrying naloxone and looking out for one another are necessary to survive, especially as lives and routines are disrupted by COVID-19. We’ve been receiving requests for naloxone non-stop since the onset of the pandemic and are so grateful for everyone who has helped spread the word.”
The project is supported by Vital Strategies, a global public health organization and lead partner on the $50 million overdose response initiative announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies in November 2018. One million dollars is allocated to projects in New Jersey.
Prior to the coronavirus, many of New Jersey’s most populous communities were found to be “naloxone deserts” in a 2019 Rutgers University study. Only seven of New Jersey’s 21 counties have a Harm Reduction Center that offers free naloxone and infectious disease prevention tools to residents who use drugs. New Jersey has been slow to increase harm reduction services despite endorsement from the U.S. Surgeon General and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and despite having one of the nation’s highest death rates from opioid overdose.
NJHRC’s partnership with NEXT Naloxone will allow individuals who are geographically or financially constrained from accessing naloxone to obtain this life-saving drug at no cost through the mail.
“The best service is provided by in-person harm reduction programs,” said Jamie Favaro, the founder of NEXT Naloxone. “But an online model is still a necessity for people who have no other option.”
Harm Reduction Centers provide new sterile syringes and collect used ones, distribute naloxone, and provide health screenings and community connection. These supports are vital for individuals who are low-paid, without safe and decent housing, or disconnected from family and loved ones.
Nationwide, drug user unions and organizations that distribute naloxone and safer injection supplies are encouraging people who use drugs, people who recently stopped using drugs, and their close family and social circles to stock up on these essential supplies while sheltering-in-place.
For more information or to request a kit and get a training, visit https://www.naloxoneforall.org/newjersey or call/text 1-877-4NARCAN.
Vital Strategies has also created a compilation of dozens of resources for people who use drugs and other marginalized people in the COVID-19 outbreak.
This page contains guidance documents, government advisories, and tools for people who use drugs and stakeholders likely to engage with people who use drugs.
About New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition
New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition is comprised of advocates and organizers advancing harm reduction and equitable drug policy reform in New Jersey. We are people who use drugs, people who are in recovery, and people who are harmed by the War on Drugs and overdose deaths. We are family members, neighbors, and community leaders united in our commitment to the philosophy and practice of harm reduction.
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in more than 70 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.
Jenna Mellor: 609-437-4389 or email@example.com
Caitlin O’Neill: 201-707-6702 or firstname.lastname@example.org