Several Local Health Experts Explored Harm Reduction Strategies

By Lindsay Marcus
Program Coordinator, AIDS Funding Collaborative
November 8, 2017

The Center for Community Solutions’ annual Celebration of Human Services featured a breakout session entitled Harm Reduction Strategies in NEO.  Terry Allan, Health Commissioner of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, moderated a panel of local experts discussing their harm reduction programs and impact in our region. 

Mr. Allan started the session defining harm reduction as strategies intended to lessen the health impact of drug use. Panelists Dr. Joan Papp from MetroHealth and Project DAWN, Lisa Fair from Circle Health Services, and Dr. Kristin Englund from the Cleveland Clinic each shared a bit about their programs and took questions from the attendees.  Specifically, panelists discussed needle exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases, naloxone/narcan as overdose prevention/reversal, as well how the harm reduction model has been used to further prevent HIV with new tools like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). 

Harm reduction programs are not without challenges and the panel was candid about their experiences. Implementing harm reduction programs requires advocacy for funding and resources, training at all levels of healthcare, especially clinical providers, and can be difficult to get community buy-in when the programs, science, and benefits are not understood.  Questions and comments from the attendees led to conversations about other harm reduction strategies such as access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction, fentanyl detection strips to test drugs before using, and combating the stigma associated with drug use and HIV. 

To read about other sessions at the Celebration of Human Services held on October 20, 2017, please click here.