Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies, policies and programs that aim to minimize the negative consequences, morbidity and mortality rates associated with substance use. Harm reduction integrates various strategies and supportive services, which may include addressing conditions of use, substitution therapies, supervised and safer means of consumption, overdose reversal medications, access to education and support groups, and respect for the rights of people who have substance use disorders.
The Washington State Department of Health reported 5,792 drug overdose hospitalization events in the state of Washington in just 2016 alone. We have seen an increase in consumption of illegal substances in our communities throughout Washington. There are various underlying causes for these patterns of higher rates of substance use. One factor appears to be related to deeper systemic inequality. The social stressors present in an unequal society can drive individuals into detrimental coping mechanisms, which leads to elevated rates of drug and alcohol use. This phenomenon produces a disproportionate burden on marginalized individuals and communities that are often struggling with chronic poverty, violence, childhood abuse or traumatic life events. Therefore, substance abuse can be seen as a consequence of a societies systemic inequalities.
WPRS recognizes drug use as a public health issue, which requires comprehensive systemic social and health solutions. Therefore, we advocate for expanding and fully funding harm reduction strategies and programs to provide a lifeline for necessary care and treatment while significantly reducing the number of overdose deaths of this vulnerable population. We see harm reduction strategies as a necessary downstream intervention to try to reduce morbidity and mortality for our societies vulnerable populations.
WPSR has ENDORSED:
YES to SCS
WPSR has joined the YES to SCS coalition. This coalition is working diligently to bring safe consumption sites to Seattle in order to reduce harm related to substance use. We know that SCSs allow people who consume drugs to build trusted relationships with providers and community health workers in a stigma-free environment. And studies have shown that participants are more likely to enter detox and treatment services.
We have put together a quick fact sheet regarding Safe consumption sites that can be read here: