The New Jersey Department of Health will host Fighting Stigma to End the Overdose Epidemic: A Harm Reduction Workshop, on Aug. 21.
The event, in advance of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, will highlight harm reduction – preventing overdose deaths and supporting individuals with substance use disorder by addressing their health and social needs – as a life-saving, evidence-based public health tool for New Jersey communities.
Beginning at 9:00 a.m., the workshop will feature national experts and local leaders discussing how harm reduction policy and practice can prevent overdose deaths, reduce drug-related stigma, decrease transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, and promote the dignity and health of all New Jerseyans, including individuals with substance use disorder.
New Jersey Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli will deliver opening remarks at 9:30 a.m.
The featured speaker for the workshop is Sheila Vakharia, a researcher at the Drug Policy Alliance. Her session will introduce attendees to the philosophy and practice of harm reduction as a public health strategy to promote the health of people who use drugs.
The workshop’s keynote will be delivered by Dominick ”Nick” Bucci, a retired New Jersey State Trooper, who will discuss how harm reduction policies promote public safety, in addition to public health and human dignity – and how law enforcement plays a critical role in harm reduction. Bucci spent 25 years confronting street level drug dealers and international drug smugglers. Since retiring from the State Police in 1991, he has dedicated himself to ending drug prohibition and believes that police, prosecutors and judges are best positioned to see the injustices and ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system.
The first panel of the day will include representatives from New Jersey’s Harm Reduction Centers, who will talk about the importance of these centers in addressing the opioid epidemic and reducing the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne diseases. The afternoon panel discussion will feature advocates, parents and individuals with lived experience speaking about the importance of reducing stigma.
Workshop participants will learn the principles and practices of harm reduction, an evidence-based public health practice endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, and World Health Organization; become familiar with existing Harm Reduction Centers in New Jersey and the health services they provide; and gain tools to reduce the impact of stigma on the health and well-being of New Jerseyans with substance use disorder.
New Jersey currently has seven Harm Reduction Centers, which integrate behavioral interventions and access to services to prevent and reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
According to the Department of Health, New Jersey’s Harm Reduction Centers open the door to recovery by supporting the overall health and well-being of people who use drugs through linkages to drug treatment, medical care, housing, overdose prevention and other vital social services.