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As Overdose Death Disparities Persist in New Jersey, Nearly $470,000 in New Grants Strengthen Organizations Addressing Racial Inequity and Promoting Harm Reduction 

(New Jersey, March 15, 2023) — The United States is in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in its history. Nearly 108,000 lives were lost to overdose this past year, with fatal overdose rising sharply among Black Americans. New Jersey experienced more than 2,800 overdose deaths in 2022 alone, and the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated racial disparities across the state.  

To address the surge in overdose deaths in communities of color, public health organization Vital Strategies awarded grants to five community-based organizations and partnerships led by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). The community-based projects will focus on advancing racial equity and harm reduction throughout the state of New Jersey and will address racial harms caused by punitive policies and systems that target people of color.

“As a direct result of the War on Drugs, Black, Indigenous, and people of color who use drugs are disproportionately denied access to health services available to white counterparts. Pervasive stigmatization, criminalization, and racism fuel harmful drug use and increase overdose rates,” said Lindsey Kerins, a program manager for the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “The grants we are awarding are a targeted intervention to address that disparity. We know that the leadership of community-led organizations will be key to implementing evidence-based practices to address the harms associated with drug use and reduce fatal overdose in the hardest-hit communities in New Jersey.”  

Grantees were selected through an open application process and were awarded  funding for one year to advance principles of harm reduction, destigmatize community responses to people who use drugs, and promote racial justice and health equity. Awardees of the Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant include:  

  • Imperfect Village, Mt Laurel
  • RUBY’s Vision, Paterson
  • PROCEED, Inc., Elizabeth
  • Chosen Generation Community Corporation & Rapha HealthCare Services LLC, Paterson  
  • SHILO-NJ, New Brunswick 

“Through these partnerships with community-led organizations, Vital Strategies hopes to aid in enhancing and expanding BIPOC-led harm reduction services while reducing overdoses among BIPOC communities in New Jersey,” said Kerins.   

Project objectives can include community training and education, community organizing and base-building, capacity building, direct service provision, and other innovative strategies. The first round of funding will be dispersed to awardees beginning in March 2023.  

About Vital Strategies    

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our overdose prevention program works to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions to create equitable and sustainable reductions in overdose deaths. Work across seven U.S. States is supported by funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative, launched in 2018, and by targeted investments from other partners.  

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

Media Contact:   
Tony Newman:; 646-335-5384    
Gloria Malone: