7th National Harm Reduction Conference: Towards A National Policy

Starting Date: 11-13-2008
Ending Date: 11-16-2008

Hilton Hotel
Miamia, Florida
United States
Dear Friends:

Every two years at this time I write an inspirational letter of greeting for this conference announcement. This year the letter writes itself. The Seventh National Harm Reduction Conference is taking place within 9 days of the national elections. There is reason for optimism. With some mobilization, the purveyors of eight long years of lies, corruption, hypocrisy, destruction, nepotism, greed, callousness, con-passion, and debt creation will be shuttled off into a deep, dark, disused uranium mine. We will have an end to the worst presidency in our history. The characters that have lurked, like Harry Potter’s death-eating foes, in the White House will be no more (although we all know that people like Cheney exhibit a Voldemort-like quality of never quite going away).

A Democrat in the White House will not guarantee that a change is going to come in any significant fashion. But taking a harm reduction approach of “meeting politicians where they are” and embracing any positive change, what can we reasonably expect? An end to the morale-crushing, exodus-inducing politicization of institutions such as the CDC, NIDA and SAMSHA should be on the score sheet. An open dialog with the scientific community about harm reduction-based interventions, such as naloxone and syringe exchange, could be held without the straitjacket of censorship. Local authorities would actually be encouraged to start and expand syringe exchange. A new administration might work with Congress to increase funding for viral hepatitis, eliminate racialized sentencing disparities for crack cocaine, direct SAMSHA to launch a national overdose prevention strategy, and formulate goals to make drug treatment on demand ―including buprenorphine for those at the margins of the health care system―a reality. Global AIDS funding through PEPFAR would be expanded for countries with injection-related HIV epidemics and restrictions on abortion providers, abstinence requirements in HIV prevention, and anti-prostitution “pledges” would be eliminated. Communities and health officials could pursue establishing safe injection spaces and heroin prescription without having to look quite as rigorously over their shoulders for the goon squad to come beating down the doors. And the federal ban on the funding of syringe exchange will ultimately become a footnote in the history of failed governance. Maybe by the year 2013, the feds will actually provide some money for syringe access. We’ve done the groundwork and the evidence exists to support our efforts, but we will not have an easy path, no matter who is in Congress or the White House.

The Seventh National Harm Reduction Conference will have an eye firmly on the national scene. There is no reason why compassion, science and common sense cannot prevail, nor any reason why the United States could not adopt a harm reduction framework to address drug and alcohol problems. Join us in Miami and be part of the direction, planning and brainstorming.

See you there.

Allan Clear

Executive Director
Geographical Scope: National

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