Vital Strategies Statement: Massive Support of Harm Reduction Needed at National and State Levels to Reduce Record-Breaking Overdose Deaths
President Joe Biden released his first national drug control strategy to Congress yesterday as the U.S. overdose crisis reaches historical heights. The White House strategy is the first national plan that emphasizes and officially supports harm reduction strategies. The plan also calls for funding to target drug enforcement and drug trafficking.
Statement from Daliah Heller, Vital Strategies, Vice-President of Drug Use Initiatives:
“President Biden is right to prioritize harm reduction in his national drug control strategy. Without funding from Congress and states for harm reduction that matches the scale of this crisis, we won’t reverse the escalating tragedy of overdose in this country. Every community deserves access to lifesaving harm reduction tools like naloxone, low threshold methadone and buprenorphine, drug checking tools, and overdose prevention centers. We must remove unnecessary and harmful barriers that restrict access to medications, syringes, and other life-saving services.
“Convening an inter-agency workgroup to combat barriers to treatment, housing, employment, health care, and public accommodations, as outlined in President Biden’s plan, is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to the action this work will produce. But still more needs to be done. Over-the-counter naloxone is a necessary strategy to reduce overdose deaths and should be urgently prioritized. Administration support for overdose prevention centers and more robust recognition and enforcement of anti-discrimination protections for people who use drugs are other clear areas for improvement. Current restrictions on access to medications and other life-saving services means that people continue to die unnecessarily from preventable overdose.
“The country’s punitive, carceral approach to addressing drug use and overdose don’t work- in fact, it has led to more than 106,000 deaths last year. It is an approach that rests on a racist and punitive foundation with destructive and predictable consequences-filling up our prisons and jails, breaking up families and communities, and producing the worst overdose crisis in history. Fifty years after President Nixon officially launched the war on drugs, it’s time President Biden and states reject failed punitive polices that criminalize and stigmatize people who use drugs and adopt proven harm reduction strategies grounded in health and dignity.”
Background: Vital Strategies National “Support Harm Reduction” Ad Campaign
In February, Vital Strategies launched an interactive, online memorial to honor those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose – more than one million in the past two decades in the U.S. – far surpassing car crashes and firearm fatalities combined.
The memorial’s launch was accompanied by the largest-ever national advertising campaign promoting harm reduction, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times featuring 200 real people working in harm reduction, on the front lines of the overdose crisis. Three video ads featuring overdose prevention advocates whose own lives were saved by harm reduction is airing 6,000 times in and around Washington, D.C. on a range of channels including: CNN, BET, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu and various podcasts, totaling 37 million impressions.
The campaign highlights five critical, proven harm reduction strategies that need to be embraced: 1) Naloxone 2) Overdose Prevention Centers 3) Drug Checking Resources 4) Safer Drug Use Supplies and 5) Methadone and Buprenorphine.
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. In November 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a five-year, $120 million investment to help combat the overdose crisis in the hard-hit states of Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The initiative builds on work of the past three years in Michigan and Pennsylvania, launched in 2018 with $50 million and expands the work to promote improved federal policies. The partnership between Vital Strategies, Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University, CDC Foundation, and Global Health Advocacy Incubator is helping to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions to reduce overdose risks and save lives.
For Immediate Release: April 22, 2022