A Message From Our New Executive Director: Dr. Orisha Bowers

Dear National Harm Reduction Coalition Community,

Today is a very humbling day for me. It reminds me of my very first day at the National Harm Reduction Coalition three years ago. I came to NHRC because I believed in the mission of the organization, and I wanted to help create change for those who are often pushed to the margins of society in terms of social conditions and collective response. I saw then how NHRC empowers people to do magical things with their creativity and, in turn, make the world a better place. I knew there was no better organization to join if I wanted to make a difference in for people living at the intersection of drug use, sex work, and harm reduction. I wanted to help liberate people from the subjugation of drug use criminalization. This is the very same inspiration that drives me today. It is an incredible honor to serve and lead this amazing organization we share. My predecessors and ancestors in this movement have taken us from an idea to one of the greatest and most universally admired organizations in the world. As I step in as Executive Director, I ask you all to continue to devote your support to the organization focused on our mission. I’m also looking forward to working with all of you. 

While we have seen great success, I am certain we are able to do more. This is a critical time for the harm reduction movement and for NHRC. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places — as harm reduction evolves and we evolve with and at times ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that NHRC thrives in an arduous world. As we start a new phase of our journey together, I want to share some of my background and what inspires and motivates me. I am 46. I was married for 15 years, and we had three amazing kids. Like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experiences. I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning and creating. I fundamentally believe if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So, my radical love for my family, curiosity and deep commitment for knowledge all shape my leadership.  My life’s work is centered on an intentional merging of women’s studies, education, interdisciplinarity and creativity, spirituality, healing, wellness, and movement. 

I believe that over the next decade harm reduction will become even more ubiquitous and harm reduction education and services will become more ambient across systems. The co-evolution of the harm reduction movement and other adjacent movements will coalesce. This will be made possible by the development of a new ever-growing National Harm Reduction Coalition membership network of connected providers. As we look forward, we must zero in on what NHRC can continue to uniquely contribute to the world through our collective wisdom and expertise. The opportunity at hand will require us to reimagine much of what we have done in the past and to think strategically about how we do new things in the future. To quote Oscar Wilde: “We need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.” This starts with clarity of purpose and a keen sense of mission that will lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it to this world. 

Plenty of national organizations aspire to change the world. Very few are as fortunate as NHRC to have all of the elements required to change the world: talent, resources, brilliance, tenacity, and perseverance. NHRC has proven that it has all of these in abundance. And as the new Executive Director, I can’t ask for a better ecology. Let’s build on this foundation together.


In Solidarity,

Dr. Orisha Bowers