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Vital Stories

Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant Supports New Jersey Groups Fighting To Prevent Overdose Deaths Among People of Color

Although overdose deaths declined overall in New Jersey in 2022, the rate increased among Black and Latinx people. It’s the same across the United States: overdose deaths are rising most rapidly in communities of color, especially among Black and Indigenous people.

To help communities of color address this surge in overdose deaths, Vital Strategies awarded nearly $470,000 in grants to five community-based organizations and partnerships in New Jersey led by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and serving these communities. The Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant is the first of its kind in the state, bolstering the Overdose Prevention Program’s overall mission to address overdose through public health initiatives, rather than punitive policies. Recipients of the Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant will focus on advancing racial equity and harm reduction throughout the state, addressing gaps in care and supportive services for people who use drugs. The first round of funding was disbursed to awardees beginning in March 2023. 

The grants are supporting projects focused on community training and education, community organizing and base-building, capacity building, direct services, outreach, and other strategies.

Included among the five New Jersey-based grantees of the Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant are: 

Imperfect Village

Imperfect Village is a community-based organization in Mount Laurel that “reimagines building a community by collecting our fractured parts to help make individuals whole.” This Black queer women-led coalition focuses on racial equity and centering the needs of underserved community members. Imperfect Village provides a wide array of services, including employment and health care resources, direct organizing opportunities, outreach, mutual aid, support to lower-income families, and peer assistance. 

The Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant will support Imperfect Village in their goal to expand their reach to engage with more people and provide direct services through their mobile outreach program.

Ruby’s Vision

Located in Paterson Ruby’s Vision provides mothers and their children who are affected by homelessness with a wide range of supportive and transitional housing services. Affected families can receive basic necessities and aid from the organization’s resource center. Ruby’s Vision also operates a street outreach program that supplies people with food, clothing, naloxone, harm reduction kits, and wound care supplies.

The Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant will support Ruby’s Vision to expand their street outreach program and provide peer recovery support services, including linkage to care, and referrals to evidence-based treatment services and providers offering medications for opioid use disorder, including methadone and buprenorphine. These are lifesaving medications proven to reduce the risk of overdose, reduce drug cravings, and ease withdrawal symptoms.


PROCEED, Inc. seeks to “provide and connect people to educational, health, and human services.” Located in Elizabeth, PROCEED offers: individual and group counseling; trainings and technical assistance for other organizations to advance health equity; resources for families involved in the criminal legal and child welfare systems; employment services; affordable housing and utility assistance; HIV preventative care; and harm reduction services, including a drop-in center. The organization tailors its services to Latinx communities. 

The Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant will support PROCEED in its mission to strengthen local communities’ overdose prevention response and provide public health interventions for people with substance use disorders.

Rapha Healthcare Services LLC with support from Chosen Generation Community Corporation

Chosen Generation Community Corporation and Rapha Healthcare Services LLC—two organizations based in Paterson—support and empower individuals struggling with addiction throughout their recovery process. Rapha Healthcare is a nurse-led organization that conducts health and harm reduction outreach. The Chosen Generation Community Corporation recovery program delivers comprehensive care to people with substance use disorders by addressing both immediate and long-term needs through therapy, health care assistance, referrals to providers of medications for opioid use disorder, and job skills training. The two organizations have collaborated in the past to better serve New Jerseyans who use drugs and those with substance use disorders.

Supporting Homeless Innovatively Loving Others (SHILO-NJ)

SHILO is a grassroots coalition established in 2015 that caters to unhoused people in the city of New Brunswick. The community-based group, primarily led by people with lived experience of homelessness, provides direct aid and on-the-ground support to unhoused people in the community at least once a week. Through their outreach program, SHILO-NJ supplies community members with harm reduction supplies, such as safer use kits, naloxone, and safe sex kits. In addition, SHILO provides unhoused people with food, hygiene products, and clothing, as well as connections to housing, healthcare, and other social services. 

The Health Equity Harm Reduction Grant will allow SHILO-NJ to expand its outreach efforts and provide unhoused people with harm reduction services, legal assistance and health care. 

The grantees were selected through an open application process and were awarded funding for one year. Supporting local organizations that offer direct harm reduction services and support to people who use drugs is key to ending the overdose crisis in New Jersey—and creating healthier communities in the state overall.

About Vital Strategies’ Overdose Prevention Program

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 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.

Learn more about our Overdose Prevention Program.