Track Description: 
The Harm Reduction Coalition and SYNChronicity 2020 are proud to unveil the new Harm Reduction track. Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing the negative consequences around drug use; it is person-centered, non-judgmental and addresses drug use in the context of a person’s life. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with experts in the field during the following presentations: Harm Reduction: Balancing Flexibility and Advocacy; Barriers to Care: Racism and Stigma; De-escalation: A Community Skill; and Queering Narratives on Harm Reduction.  

Track Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify best practices in harm reduction advocacy used in response to COVID

  2. Discuss the influence of racism, stigma, criminalization in creating barriers to care

  3. Identify practical strategies for implementing trauma-informed de-escalation 

  4. Discuss the legacy and principles of queer activism, the spectrums of gender, and the importance of intersectional frameworks in building solidarity

Session #1: 

Session Title: Harm Reduction: Balancing Flexibility and Advocacy

Session Description:
Harm Reduction Organizations like syringe exchanges are practiced in flexibility and advocacy as they navigate the needs of people who use drugs.  Having a deep understanding of how the system has failed these groups allows harm reductionists to deftly navigate how to work through and outside of these systems. When the government finally acknowledged COVID-19, harm reductionists were able to quickly put together mutual aid resources, advocate for needed policy shifts, and develop creative ways to access those who were isolated and needed services. Hear from HRC staff and HepConnect grantees on some of the adaptations that were made, how they got to them, and how they plan to move forward in the post-COVID era. 

Session Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify 3 techniques HR agencies used from the beginning of COVID, the origins of those ideas, and functioning w/o much guidance 

  2. Understand where advocacy from HR programs affected changes in  inflexible policies - such as Rx laws around buprenorphine and methadone 

  3. Facilitate a discussion through which the group will identify 3 limitations HR programs have not adapt

  4. Identify key characteristics to anticipate in a 2nd wave and develop tactics HR can use to plan for each characteristic 

Session #2: 

Session Title: Barriers to Care:  Racism and Stigma

Session Description:
As the paradigm shifts to finally recognize racism over race as a barrier to care,  it is important to build connections between stigma and racism. The current uprisings against police brutality and the disproportionately spread burden of COVID-19 are not unrelated phenomena. Understanding how we criminalize both people and their behaviors, helps us understand any epidemic as a predictable consequence of our current infrastructure. Using the war on drugs as an example, we will explore how racism and stigma were systematized and built into the systems of our society. 

Session Learning Objectives:

  1. Increase understanding of the impact of racism and stigma as a barrier by providing context through examples from COVID-19 restrictions/realities

  2. Increase understanding of criminalization by reviewing connections between current uprisings and the War on Drugs 

  3. Highlight HR programs that have taken a stance to actively unpack this work and discuss tactics to promote and increase awareness of these activities

Session #3: 

Session Title: De-escalation

Session Description:
As we begin to reckon with histories of violence and shift focus to small, community-based methods of transforming harm and addressing conflict as it arises, it is important to develop skills in de-escalation. Being able to manage conflict while prioritizing safety requires a dynamic understanding of power, privilege, and the environment. This workshop will discuss basic de-escalation skills with a trauma-informed lens as well as discuss why disengaging from the carceral state is so important to harm reduction and the safety of our program participants.

Session Learning Objectives:

  1. Increase ability to recognize socio-cultural factors relating to conflict (Privilege, adherence, location)

  2. Review practical de-escalation skills

  3. Review tactics for integrating a trauma-informed lens to de-escalation 

  4. Identify examples that diagnose the current political climate as an escalated state 

Session #4: 

Session Title: Lighthouse Learning Collective: Queering Narratives on Harm Reduction

Session Description:
As the face of harm reduction becomes whiter and more centered on opioids, it is important to take a step back and understand how the LGBTQIA movement is tied to this. We will begin to unpack how the criminalization of people who use drugs, and those in the queer and trans community are not just parallel stories, but ones that are coincident. Many of the leaders at Stonewall were people who used drugs - and understanding that legacy helps to build networks of solidarity. This workshop will also begin to unpack how the idea of the binary not only obstructs our understanding of gender but of the carceral state, of substance use, and harm reduction. We will also look briefly look at how the COVID-19 response has continued the criminalization of this community.

Session Learning Objectives:

  1. Review the legacy of queer activism and its ties to drug use, the war on drugs, and criminalization 

  2. Be introduced to the spectrums of gender, discuss the importance of intersectional frameworks in building solidarity, and review specific strategies to do so

  3. Answer the question, “What does it mean when your care is non-essential?” by reviewing COVID-19 response examples that have continued criminalization of the LGBTQIA community