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Feds to disperse “harm reduction kits” for druggies; may include crack pipes and services to help save lives

Crack cocaine is addictive, users say.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal Health and Human Services Department will disperse “harm reduction kits” for druggies, which may reportedly include crack pipes and services to help save lives and address the nation’s substance use and overdose epidemic.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) accepted applications for the first-ever SAMHSA Harm Reduction grant program and expects to issue $30 million in grant awards. This funding, authorized by the American Rescue Plan, will help increase access to a range of community harm reduction services and support harm reduction service providers as they work to help prevent overdose deaths and reduce health risks often associated with drug use. SAMHSA will accept applications from State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, Tribal organizations, non-profit community-based organizations, and primary and behavioral health organizations.

With overdose deaths exceeding 100,000 over a 12-month period for the first time, this funding opportunity will provide support to those working in their communities to reduce the harms of drug use. Providing funding and support for innovative harm reduction services is in line with the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to address the overdose epidemic, and is a key pillar for the first time in the multi-faceted Health and Human Services’ overdose prevention strategy announced in October. This funding allows organizations to expand their community-based overdose prevention programs in a variety of ways, including distributing overdose-reversal medications and fentanyl test strips, providing overdose education and counseling, and managing or expanding syringe services programs, which help control the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

“The reality is, evidence-based harm reduction services are out of reach for far too many people,” said National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, who also announced a new model law to help states ensure access to safe, effective, and cost-saving syringe services programs. “Building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to expand evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery support services, this historic funding will help make harm reduction services more accessible, so we can meet people where they are and save lives.”

“Too many Americans, more than 100,000 people over the last year, have lost their lives to drug overdose. Our new HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy is clear – harm reduction services are critical to keeping people who use drugs alive and as healthy as possible,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Americans deserve health services that address the full range of drug use and addiction issues, and this funding will help provide those services in the neighborhoods in which they live.”

“Innovative harm reduction services will help keep Americans alive,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “Thanks to this American Rescue Plan funding, harm reduction service providers in historically under-resourced communities will receive long-awaited support to help stem the disproportionate number of overdose deaths and related health issues facing those communities.”

SAMHSA will distribute $10 million per year over the next three years. Grant recipients must use the funds to support harm reduction services. Harm reduction service providers will be asked to develop or expand evidence-based services that may include, but not be limited to: the provision of sterile syringes, safe sex kits, prevention education about synthetic opioids and other substances, overdose prevention kits including naloxone distribution, peer worker engagement, medical services, case management and referral to treatment. Warm handoffs that facilitate engagement in care and referrals to treatment for individuals seeking these support services are also critical components of this grant program. Harm reduction services will be trauma-informed and guided by harm reduction stakeholder groups and other community members.

Grant funds must be used primarily to support the following required harm reduction activities:

  • Assess organizational readiness and create a strategic action plan based upon identified strengths, gaps (including those related to social determinants of health), and opportunities for capacity development required to implement an evidence-based harm reduction program at the service delivery and organizational levels.
  • Develop a sustainability plan to ensure that harm reduction program elements are continued after the grant period ends. This could include collaboration with community partners to share resources or a cost sharing element.
  • Develop policies and procedures to implement evidence-based trauma-informed practices throughout each level of the organizational structure.
  • Distribute FDA-approved overdose reversal medication and deliver overdose prevention education to target populations regarding the consumption of substances including but not limited to opioids and their synthetic analogs.
  • Establish processes, protocols, mechanisms for referral to treatment and recovery support services, referral to treatment for infectious diseases such as HIV, STIs, and viral hepatitis.
  • Assemble a harm reduction advisory council that meets regularly to guide program activities and project implementation. Group members should include people who use drugs (PWUD), individuals in recovery, harm reduction service providers and other key community members such as public safety officers, mental health providers and treatment providers.
  • Designate staff (e.g., Program Coordinator and/or Program Evaluator) to provide program design, implementation, and evaluation to meet grant program and reporting requirements.
  • Purchase equipment and supplies to enhance harm reduction efforts, such as:
  • Harm reduction vending machine(s), including stock for machines; o Infectious diseases testing kits (HIV, HBV, HCV, etc.);
  • Medication lock boxes;
  • FDA-approved overdose reversal medication (as well as higher dosages now approved by FDA);
  • Safe sex kits, including PrEP resources and condoms;
  • Safe smoking kits/supplies (reportedly may include crack pipes);
  • Screening for infectious diseases (HIV, sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis);
  • Sharps disposal and medication disposal kits;
  • Substance test kits, including test strips for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs;
  • Syringes to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases; o Vaccination services (hepatitis A, hepatitis B vaccination); and
  • Wound care management supplies.

Harm reduction programs that use federal funding must adhere to federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and other requirements related to such programs or services.

Applications for this program were due by February 7, 2022.

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