Tag Archives: harm reduction

Harm reduction for the 21st century

Needles collected for dispersal at the Syringe Exchange Program at Outside In. Photo by Kristina Wright

Needles collected for dispersal at the Syringe Exchange Program at Outside In. Photo by Kristina Wright

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

Vancouver, B.C.’s drug revolution

By Ben Christopher, Street News Service

Roots, resistance, and survival in Vancouver’s war on drugs began when William Lyon Mackenzie King came to Vancouver, B.C. in the spring of 1908. The battle, in some ways, continues to this day.

The previous September, members and sympathizers of the newly formed Asiatic Exclusion League had descended upon Chinatown by the thousands. Smashing plate glass windows and ripping signs from storefront overhangs, the rioters were finally repelled at Powell Street by club-wielding residents of Japantown. And so the future prime minister found himself in Vancouver, assessing the damage claims of aggrieved business owners.

What King found in Chinatown was a thriving opium industry. Even more troubling to the deputy minister, the drug was regularly being consumed by English-speaking whites. Just a month later, a long title bill, now known simply as the Opium Act, passed through both chambers of Parliament with minimal debate. This was Canada’s first anti-drug law — the opening salvo in a war on drugs that continues to this day.

More than a century later, Canadian drug policy is still being hashed out on the streets of Vancouver. Last September, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to allow Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection facility, to keep its doors open on East Hastings. Two months later, Mayor Gregor Robertson joined four of his predecessors in an open call for the legalization of marijuana. Last month, Vancouver Coastal Health began offering free crack pipes to stem the oral transmission of disease among users, whose crack use-related lip and mouth injuries can make them vulnerable to HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Continue reading

Harm reduction, anyone?

For the past two years Street Roots has covered what some are calling an opiate/heroin epidemic in the region. SR is in no place to determine if the region is dealing with what we can call an epidemic — but it’s not pretty.

Last week, as reported by SR, the State of Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission gave an overview of Oregon’s drug treatment system. The report calls for a complete overhaul of the system, which is “fragmented” with “significant gaps in coverage.”

Dr. Dennis McCarty, a member of the commission, told SR that Oregon’s treatment system continues to reflect what the need was 20 or 30 years ago, when treatment programs were developed to serve a population of “public inebriates.” Now, he says, there is growing demand to provide treatment for women, youth, and other groups who are addicted to drugs other than alcohol, such as heroin. “This is about catching up to the year 2010,” he says.
Yes, finally someone who is thinking in the 21st century. Wait, maybe not. Continue reading