A new ad campaign from Vital Strategies promotes the benefits of harm reduction to address the growing overdose crisis. The organization is leading a week of action to boost support for harm reduction as a viable public health strategy.
Launching a full-page ad in the New York Times, the Vital Strategies campaign highlighted 200 people who do harm reduction work. The ad notes that overdose deaths are preventable and encourages people to join the fight to end overdose.
According to a statement announcing the project, the group is also releasing three video ads by overdose prevention advocates who benefited from harm reduction strategies.
“People who use drugs are somebody’s father, mother, brother or sister. Somebody out there loves them,” says Terrell Jones, Outreach and Advocacy Program Manager at New York Harm Reduction Educators.
The organization is also hosting an online memorial to honor the people who died due to an overdose. People can share a photo or post about a loved one directly on SupportHarmReduction.org or post a photo on Instagram using the hashtag #OverdoseMemorial.
It’s estimated that a person dies from a drug overdose every five and a half minutes in the U.S. Over one million people have died from a drug overdose in the last 20 years.
As previously reported by NewsOne, the overdose rate for Black men tripled between 2015 and 2020. After a conservative-led disinformation campaign created chaos and confusion around a new grant by the Biden administration, some harm reduction practitioners have been trying to clarify the need for more, not less, investment in specific interventions.
The same day as the Viral Strategies ad campaign launched, AIDS United announced grant recipients through the Syringe Access Fund to support direct services in Black, indigenous and other communities of color or providers in areas of high need. Grantees include NEXT Harm Reduction in New York and The SOAR Initiative in Ohio.
“We need a wholesale shift away from the punitive, carceral approach to drug use and toward public health strategies rooted in compassion and dignity,” said Dr. Daliah Heller, Vice President of Drug Use Initiatives at Vital Strategies. “We need state and federal governments to fund community-led harm reduction services at the scale of the overdose crisis, and to remove legal barriers to harm reduction measures, such as the distribution of supplies for safer drug use.”