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Harm Reduction Receives Unprecedented $30 Million in Federal Funding through American Rescue Plan Act

(March 12, 2021)  Last night, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, which includes $4 billion for substance use disorder and mental health. The legislation allocates an unprecedented $30 million for harm reduction services such as syringe service programs and naloxone distribution.  

Statement from Daliah Heller, Director of Drug Use Initiatives at Vital Strategies: 

“President Biden and Congress are to be commended for their bold action. The America Rescue Plan Act’s substantial investment in addressing substance use disorder and mental health will translate directly to lives saved. Tragically, fatal overdose claimed a record 71,000 people in 2019. COVID-19 has only worsened the problem, layering a pandemic upon an epidemic. Preliminary data for 2020 indicate overdose deaths further increased to more than 83,000 lives lost, and rose sharply for Black Americans.  

“The $30 million for harm reduction services in the Act is historic, occurring almost 50 years to the month when President Nixon officially launched the war on drugs with the clear goal of targeting Black people and the anti-war movement. The country’s approach towards drugs still rests on that racist and punitive foundation. As a consequence, for decades, federal funding was denied to syringe access and other harm reduction services for many years, despite solid evidence of their effectiveness.  

“We applaud President Biden, Congress, and the advocates who pushed to invest in the lifesaving work of community-based harm reduction services. We expect that this funding will address the disproportionate burden of overdose on Black, Indigenous and communities of color. And we dare to hope that this first significant federal investment in harm reduction is a watershed moment—a sign that our country is ready to reject the punitive, carceral approach to drug use that has led to tens of thousands of deaths each year, and adopt proven harm reduction strategies grounded in health and dignity.” 

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

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. 

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 | tnewman@vitalstrategies.org