By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer
On Nov. 15, the Harm Reduction Coalition’s national conference came to Portland for the first time. Covering topics from political shifts in drug treatment to overcoming drug user stigma, the conference touched on a variety of issues related to national drug use. To get a better grasp on the breadth of harm reduction and its current role in the local and national spheres, Street Roots spoke with Allan Clear, who has been the director of HRC since 1995.
Alex Zielinski: Can you define harm reduction? It seems to encompass a wide variety of areas, from health care to legal policy.
Allan Clear: Harm reduction, or at least what we’ve done with it, is looking not at drug prevention or treatment, but focusing on people who are currently dealing with drug-related effects.
A.Z.: How does Portland play into harm reduction practices from a national perspective?
A.C.: While this is the first time our national conference has come to Portland, this city is ahead of the rest of the country in a lot of ways. Specifically, the Syringe Exchange Program, the easiest example of harm reduction. It’s so exciting to be here, the birthplace of the program in the country.
A.Z.: And how is harm reduction treated at the national level?
A.C.: We’ve seen a big and national change in the federal government’s take on harm reduction in the last four years. Primarily in drug, public health and law enforcement efforts. Under President Obama, we’ve begun to see this change, and we’re hoping it will continue now that he’s re-elected. He’s put a big focus on overdose prevention programs, which most leaders won’t touch. Continue reading