Our Community and Harm Reduction
A few days ago it was suggested to us that harm reduction “creates more problems than it solves.” We’d like to take this opportunity to update our community about our accomplishments over the last year or so, so we can be better informed about what we’re up against and how we’re responding.
Our efforts are in direct response to the devastating social and financial consequences we face as a result of our current drug epidemic. Over 30 years of failed policies have led us to the following state of affairs: a 500% increase in overdoses in the last few years (Bloomington Hospital), a Hepatitis C epidemic (Monroe County Health Department), a prescription opioid epidemic (Center for Disease Control), unprecedented mass incarceration, and the worst HIV outbreak in the history of our country (just an hour away in Scott County).
To keep our community safe, the IRA has tirelessly worked to:
– Distribute over a million dollars in harm reduction supplies, for free and at no cost to taxpayers, which are proven to stop the spread of infectious disease such as HIV and Hepatitis C and medical conditions such as sepsis infections and endocarditis. If we stop just one case of HIV, Hepatitis C, or heart valve replacement from endocarditis, our entire year’s budget is justified. For every $1 spent, $7 is saved. SEP’s (Syringe Exchange Programs) have been shown to decrease Hepatitis C and HIV transmission by up to 80%.
– Engage with over 450 unique community members who use IV drugs, serving as a previously unavailable access point to other services
– Non-coercively refer over 40% of our participants to other services, including 97 substance use referrals (30 of which were placed in long term treatment centers), 52 Healthy Indiana Plan referrals, 14 mental health referrals, and hundreds of free consultations with our nurses. Syringe exchange is actually only a small part of what we’re doing…
– Distribute 3,490 doses of naloxone to people who are using drugs, their families and social service providers.
– Report over 75 opiate overdose reversals in Monroe County.
– Administer 125 HIV tests and 80 Hepatitis tests.
– Offer mobile outreach services twice a week, office hours twice a week and begin to delivery in rural areas.
– Collect over a million dollars worth of in-kind harm reduction supplies.
– Distribute free naloxone and train in its administration to all of our local fire departments as well as Ellettsville, Indiana University and Bloomington Police Departments, the Monroe County Sheriff Department and Monroe County Corrections Department. We also provided free sharps containers to the Bloomington Police Department, Bloomington Housing Authority and Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.
– Directly collaborate with organizations such as the multi-agency Community Health Initiative Program, Indianapolis Treatment Center, Keystone Intervention and Recovery Coaching, Indiana University, Centerstone, Amethyst House, Indiana Attorney General’s Office, Fairbanks Hospital, Recovery Engagement Center, Overdose Lifeline, Monroe County Health Department, Governors’ Task Force on Prescription Drugs, Positive Link, Shalom, Bloomington Housing Authority, Monroe County Prosecutors Office, Bloomington IU Hospital, New Leaf New Life, and Stepping Stones.
– Engage with thousands of participants with general services, such as nursing triage in our mobile unit, distributing hundreds of blankets and jackets, thousands of articles of clothing, feminine products, camping gear, hot coffee and food to those in need.
We have also been able to advocate for Harm Reduction in the following ways:
-Testify in Washington DC to a joint House/Senate briefing on the need to lift the ban on funding.
-Interviews with the New York Times, Politico, Drug Policy Alliance, Think Progress, as well as The Herald Times, In Stride, Limestone Post, and many others locally.
-Host and co-facilitate three well attended Harm Reduction training’s in conjunction with the Harm Reduction Coalition.
-Speak at six community based overdose vigils, co-hosting the overdose vigil in Bloomington with over 100 in attendance.
-Speak at the Susan Li Conference at Fairbanks Hospital.
-Speak at the Indiana Attorney General’s Symposium for Prescription Drug Abuse.
-Speak at IU School of Public Health, University of Lexington Medical School. IU School of Social Work, IU School of Education, as well as classes at Ivy Tech and to high school students about harm reduction.
-Work with Indiana State Department of Health, Monroe County Department of Health, Monroe County Prosecutors Office, Lawrence County Health Department, Brown County Health Department and the Indiana Attorney General’s office to allow for the expansion of comprehensive harm reduction across Indiana.
-Attend countless meetings with individuals and organizations to promote this model of grassroots, non-coercive, community based volunteer outreach and to celebrate the principles of participant driven social services, direct action, participatory decision making, voluntary association, and mutual aid.
Most importantly, we were able to meet hundreds of people exactly where they are and empower them to make positive changes that mitigate negative health consequences for them and our community as a whole.