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As COVID-19 Compounds National Overdose Crisis, Coalition Releases Guidance to Reduce Both COVID-19 and Overdose Deaths

As COVID-19 Compounds National Overdose Crisis, Coalition Releases Guidance to Reduce Both COVID-19 and Overdose Deaths

New Toolkit, “COVID-19 Resources for People Who Use Drugs and Other Vulnerable Communities” Provides Critical Support During Pandemic

30 July, 2020 (New York, NY) – The overdose epidemic claimed a record 72,000 lives in the United States in 2019, and 2020 data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the trend. Vulnerable communities, such as people who use drugs or engage in sex work are likely at greater risk for contracting COVID-19. In light of these findings, a coalition of harm reduction groups dedicated to reducing deaths from overdose has released “COVID-19 Resources for People Who Use Drugs and Other Vulnerable Communities,” a new toolkit of resources to support both overdose and COVID-19 prevention efforts among these at-risk populations. 

“For people who use drugs, COVID-19 is a pandemic upon an epidemic, said Daliah Heller, Vital Strategies’ Director of Drug Use Initiatives. “In the midst of the national overdose crisis, we need to support people who use drugs instead of forcing them into hiding. Our new toolkit provides vulnerable communities and the people who work with them with critical information on COVID-19 and guidance on preventive measures they can adopt, to protect people at higher risk from infection and transmission.” 

The toolkit, created by Higher Ground Harm Reduction, Reynolds Health Strategies and global health organization Vital Strategies, providesinformative fact sheets, tips and guidance for people who use drugs, engage in sex work, those who are unhoused, and the stakeholders who work with these communities. Topics include:  

·         Practicing Harm Reduction in the COVID-19 Outbreak   

·         COVID-19 Stimulant Use and Harm Reduction   

·         Handwashing and COVID-19 Prevention for Unhoused People   

·         COVID-19, Surface and Disinfection for Syringe Service Providers and Other Harm Reduction Providers   

·         Sex Workers, COVID-19 and Harm Reduction  

“Given adequate resources and facilitative policy landscapes, harm reduction programs prove incredibly dedicated, hold invaluable community trust, and have the experience in flexible and responsive implementation to maintain critical services throughout this pandemic,” said Christine Rodriquez, founder of Higher Ground Harm Reduction. “We are delighted to disseminate emergent guidance gleaned from our field to support the adaptation of these urgently needed—and, often, quite literally lifesaving—health and wellness initiatives for our friends and neighbors who use drugs.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated what many of us already knew: Syringe service programs and other harm reduction organizations are essential programs in combating infectious diseases and overdose, providing education and linkage to medical care and social services, and reaching marginalized communities that traditional public health and medical services miss, said Andrew Reynolds, founder of Reynolds Health Strategies. “Most harm reduction workers have added screening for COVID-19 symptoms, linking people to medical care and supplying personal protective equipment to their scope of work, and it’s our hope that this toolkit will play an important role in helping them do this work.”

To learn more and explore the “COVID-19 Resources for People Who Use Drugs and Other Vulnerable Communities” toolkit, please click here: 

About Higher Ground Harm Reduction  

Higher Ground Harm Reduction seeks space for dignity in disaster,working to strengthen the ability of people who use drugs and community-based harm reduction programs to prepare for, respond to, and recover after climate-related and other systems-disrupting emergencies. 

About Reynolds Health Strategies  

Reynolds Health Strategies is harm reduction and hepatitis C consulting organization that seeks to improve the health of people who use drugs through patient empowerment, innovative and accessible health education, and program technical assistance.

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 73 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.   

About Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program  

In November 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million investment to address the country’s overdose crisis. The initiative—a first-of-its-kind partnership between Vital Strategies, Pew Charitable Trusts, CDC Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—is helping up to 10 states implement solutions over three years to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven interventions to reduce risks of overdose and save lives.   

To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.   

Media Contacts
Tony Newman 
tnewman@vitalstrategies.org; 646-335-5384 

Christina Honeysett 
choneysett@vitalstrategies.org; 914-424-3356