Image by Jair Lázaro

HARM REDUCTION

HARM REDUCTION PROGRAM

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies that includes safer use, managed use, abstinence, meeting people who use drugs “where they’re at,” and addressing conditions of use along with the use itself.

THE ISSUE

In 2000, there were 108 fatal drug poisonings in Out-Wayne County and only 40 that specified an opioid or heroin as a cause of the death. In 2018, the number of fatal drug poisonings nearly quadrupled to 416 with 221 specifying an opioid and 130 specifying heroin. Historically, Out-Wayne County has had more total fatal drug poisonings and more poisonings specifying opioids or heroin than any other jurisdiction in the State. Between 2004 and 2019, 3,608 Wayne County residents under the age of 40 were diagnosed with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Where information on substance use was collected, nearly 80% of those interviewed self-reported a history of ever injecting drugs. Out-Wayne County also has one of the highest annual new HIV diagnoses (76 in 2018), and the county as a whole has the highest burden of persons living with HIV in the state.

OUT-WAYNE HARM REDUCTION INTIATIVE

Historically, there weren’t any  State-sponsored Syringe Services/Harm reduction programs outside the City of Detroit. Last Year, SOOAR partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to change the narrative. Why Inkster?

The City of Inkster was selected because it is the hometown of SOOAR’s Executive Director, Valerie Kelley-Bonner. She was raised in the city from the age of 2. She left Inkster, but Inkster never left her heart which is why she has returned to Inkster to assist throughout the years. As a prevention consultant, she understands how the social determinants of health impact individual and community health outcomes and has always focused on the unique challenges and conditions associated with urban life: the ease at which disease spreads in an urban setting, physical and mental stress associated with urban living, and the spread of STD’s/STI’s, and drug use in an urban setting.

After a few meetings with Mayor Wimberly, Chief Riley, Pastor Velma Overman, and the Inkster Ministerial Alliance, Valerie Kelley-Bonner presented a proposal to change the city’s paraphernalia ordinance to City Council.  The Council voted unanimously to change the ordinance allowing SOOAR to operate an SSP/harm reduction program in the city.

COMPONENTS OF THE HARM REDUCTION PROGRAM

SOOAR’s programs and services are centered on community engagement. Community members with expertise in substance use, homelessness, and sex work were sought to advise program design and service delivery through project participation and committee work. 

 

SOOAR maintains a priority focus on the most marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the drug-using community and as such offers important advantages in engaging hard-to-reach individuals who do not typically access mainstream health services. We also have a strong focus on people who inject drugs due to the increased risks associated with injecting drug use, including the transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV, and other blood-borne viruses. 

 

We are committed to overcoming the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who use drugs by promoting social inclusion and participation across all levels of our work.

 

We provide a low barrier, lifesaving service to address the opioid crisis which has affected the Out-Wayne County area quite acutely. Our services include distribution of sterile injection and harm reduction supplies, education, overdose prevention, intervention, other services, and referrals (mental health, HIV and HEP C testing, etc) to our registered participants.

Beyond just offering supplies and education, we aim to provide a non-judgmental and accepting atmosphere that empowers participants instead of stigmatizing them based on their substance use. 

 

We aim to reduce the negative health, social, and economic consequences that may result from the use of both legal and illegal drugs, without necessarily reducing drug use. Our cornerstones of Harm Reduction are public health, human rights, and social justice:

  • Reducing the number of drug overdoses

  • Reducing the risk factors leading to infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis

  • Enabling access to & Increasing the use of detox and drug treatment services (if desired)

  • Connecting people with other health and social services; and

  • Reducing the number of publicly discarded needles

We want to ensure that people who use substances are treated with respect and without stigma and that substance-related problems and issues are addressed systemically.

OVERDOSE PREVENTION AND RESPONSE

This Opioid public health emergency is alarming; we are extremely concerned about the high number of overdoses and overdose deaths.  Wayne County continues to experience unrelenting and extremely high rates of overdoses.  SOOAR continues to take steps to respond through our naloxone distribution and training.

FAITH IN HARM REDUCTION

“Co-creating a justice movement which connects people who use drugs, people who do sex work, and communities of faith through the development of harm reduction centered spiritual resources, ritual support, and spiritual care.” National Harm Reduction Coalition SOOAR’s “Called 2 Care”

– Harm Reduction Ministry

 “Called 2 Care Ministry”  is dedicated to building capacity and mobilizing communities at the intersection of harm reduction and faith-based organizing. Born from conversations with communities of faith, harm reduction organizations, and people who use drugs, this program fills a unique role as a connector, community mobilizer, and capacity builder:

  • It is the expression of radical welcome, the welcoming of all stories and paths. It calls people by name, and attends to and cherishes the particularities.

  • It is a hospitality that seeks people out, meets them where they are, and invites them into a loving community.

  • It is love that stands with awe at the hardships that people carry, rather than stands in judgment at how they carry it.

We are spearheading a movement, in Metro-Detroit, encouraging faith communities to finally wake up and understand the true nature of addiction, and its impact on us all. We want to rejoice in seeing peoplereudce harm, choose recovery,  sharing their stories, giving them permission to open their hearts, and share their own struggles in life. We see a transformation of faith communities becoming a place that fully welcomes "All God's Children". A place where all are welcome and are surrounded by people who have an educated understanding and can offer hope, encouragement and healing for all.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND STREET OUTREACH

Outreach takes our services to the community, going where our target populations are (geographically and philosophically), and listening to consumers. Outreach acts as a bridge between street-level users, mainstream drug treatment, allied health agencies, and policymakers. Our programs are built from the bottom up on evolutionary principles and continue to adapt to changing trends.

The outreach team:

  • Recruits, trains and supports opioid users and community members to respond to drug overdoses as peer-educators and/or with naloxone for peer- administration.

 

  • Provides training, education, and consultation to treatment or harm reduction providers and a wide variety of health and other agencies and tertiary education and research institutions.

  • Represents Peer Based Harm Reduction on several committees and reference groups.

  • Provides education to drug users and service providers, and supports community and workforce development activities, in Wayne's County and surrounding areas.

    • Primary training provided on the following evidence-based programs: 

      • CCAR Peer Recovery Coach Certification

      • QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper certification

      • Project ASSERT (Alcohol & Substance Abuse Services, Education, & Referral to Treatment)

      • Prime For Life

COLLABORATIVE PARTNERS

SOOAR’s harm reduction program exists for the community, to identify and serve their needs. We commit to constantly review ways to enhance representation and ownership by the community.

SOOAR is committed to forming partnerships built on shared goals and trust, to respond more effectively to the needs and reduce the harms for people who use or have used drugs. Our partner includes, but are not limited to:

  • City of Inkster

  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Service- Viral Hepatitis Division

  • Mother’s Pantry – Inkster Michigan

  • Beaumont Clinic (Taylor and Westwood)

  • Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network

  • Wayne County Health Department (Out-Wayne)

  • National Harm Reduction Coalition

  • Harm Reduction Michigan

  • Detroit Recovery Project

  • Unified Health and Beyond

  • No Veteran Left Behind

  • Benefitts-  Inkster nonprofit

STIGMATIZED- Viewing life through the eyes of substance use

Stigma is defined as the experience of being “deeply discredited” or marked due to one’s “undesired differentness.” To be stigmatized is to be held in contempt, shunned or rendered socially invisible because of a socially disapproved status

 

What Can Be Done To Fight Stigma? Know the facts. The majority of people who ever try any drug do not use them problematically and do not develop a physical dependence. People who struggle with drug dependence, however, should be afforded the same dignity, respect and support as a person who struggles with any difficult issue. The public’s perception of the “deadliest” and “most addictive” drugs are often not based on scientific evidence. You can help end stigma by learning the facts about drugs, drug use and evidence-based drug treatment and sharing the information with others.

 

For training information or information about the program, contact us!