March Blog: Harm Reduction

What is harm reduction? Meta Hogan from the Olympia Bupe Clinic, Katie Strozyk and Patrick Judkins representing Thurston County Public Health, and Pastor Cole Meckle of Gather Church exemplify what it means to be a harm reductionist.

For anyone who may not know, harm reduction is essentially a principle that accepts and respects, to start with, that people will engage in risky behaviors. Harm reduction provides individuals with education and information to minimize exposure to risks and adverse impacts rather than trying to reduce the behavior itself. It’s about keeping people alive and treating all people with dignity and respect.

Fastening a seat belt, wearing a helmet or hard hat, and applying sunscreen are all great examples of harm reduction: common ways we lessen potential harms from risks we are taking.

This photograph is from CPAA’s recent Transformation Talks, highlighting some of the best and brightest “transformative” activities happening across south-western Washington. After sharing a few examples and stories of how they each apply harm reduction approaches at their workplaces, the panelists discussed how often arguments ‘against’ harm reduction erroneously suggest that these services condone or even encourage risky health behaviors. Each panelist thoughtfully responded to this perspective based on their experience and expertise.

If you have questions or concerns about harm reduction, or want to know more about how you can include harm reduction principles in your organization, please contact Sara Rainier: rainers@crhn.org or visit www.harmreductioncoalition.org.