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Harm Reduction at Work: The Drug User Health Coalition

September 23, 2021

The Drug User Health Coalition is a resource group for current and former people who use drugs. This weekly meeting allows members opportunities to connect with each other, share experiences and work to bring about meaningful change. For many, this sense of purpose is instrumental in each member’s own path to a healthier future.

Emma Fabian, AVP of Harm Reduction explains, “Our patients really are motivated to meet often and to keep moving on projects that we’re working on. We are intentional about building in advocacy. We pick issues to work on, like syringe decriminalization, medication assisted treatment in jails and prisons or marijuana regulation and legalization. That involvement demonstrates legislation that would make a real positive impact in people’s lives.”

One member of the Coalition stated that advocacy allows him to feel good about himself by helping others. “I can give you some true-life stories, how drugs affect my life and my family’s life. It made me feel good about myself to do something for someone who can’t help themselves.”

Another member chimed in, “I found harm reduction helped me. It helped me reduce my drug use…it gave me inspiration to continue living.”

Some members are drawn to help others because they see themselves in those struggling. “That could have been me” is a common phrase when talking about people struggling with drugs. Also, is the feeling of stigma that many members experience. One member explains, “It’s so prevalent that people think we’re all the same and just looking for handouts. That’s not the case. Some of us have been through a lot of trauma and people look the other way.”

The Drug User Health Coalition allows members a place where they can be heard and understood, rather than looked down on or turned away from. Helping others gives many members a sense of purpose. One member who now works for Evergreen in the Harm Reduction Mobile Unit expressed joy with being able to help the community. “I love it. I love connecting with people. I love talking to them and assessing their abscesses. If they want to go to rehab or just talk, like normal people, I’m here.”