This blog was written by Savannah O’Neill, Associate Director of Capacity Building, and Jenna Haywood, Associate Director of Community Mobilization
Two weeks ago, National Harm Reduction Coalition hosted the bi-annual conference, CASEP Rising: A Conference of the California Syringe Exchange Programs. Over 250 members of CASEP coalition showed up and showed out for a virtual conference to reflect on the state of syringe exchange programs and harm reduction in California. We gathered from our separate Zoom squares, or maybe in the company of program colleagues, when we really would have loved to be able to hold each other in-person. And yet, we held each other through the distance in moments of grief, sorrow, joy, and celebration.
The last time we gathered for a CASEP conference was two years ago, and a lot has happened between now and then! In 2019 we were together in Oakland celebrating the victory of a $15.2 million investment in California syringe services (remember how we won CHRI ? Check out the CORRE Budget Win Peoples’ Timeline). We left those two days inspired, exhausted, and ready to work on our goals and priorities. We had no idea how much the world was going to break our hearts those next two years, yet–alongside running and adapting programs through a pandemic, catastrophic wildfires, and losing loved ones–we came together.
California harm reduction grew – with ten new programs established since our last conference, we set out to get more organized as a coalition, win more money for supplies, and begin working on intersectional issues more explicitly. Even just in the last few months we saw Governor Newsom sign AB 1344 ending bad-faith environmental lawsuits against harm reduction programs, end mandatory minimum drug sentencing rules and pass a budget which included an additional $13 million to end the epidemics of HIV, STIs, viral hepatitis and overdose. We learned that when we come together as the CASEP coalition, we fight, and we win.
What makes CASEP so unstoppable is the programs involved. You can get a sense of that through the spotlight videos made for this year’s conference. Check out the videos below to meet some of the people involved in the CASEP coalition and hear folks talk about the life saving services they’ve accessed and then begun to help organize, why they are involved, and what the coalition members’ hopes and dreams are for the future.
Above Video: We are CASEP: Histories and stories from our membership
Above Video: “You Better Come Back”: What it means to build and sustain services for people who use drugs
Above Video: When We Fight We Win: CASEP members’ hopes and dreams for where we want to be in two years
Alongside celebrating CASEP coalition programs and collective power, we were so excited to launch CASEP’s new logo and brand made by Molly Jane Hammond. “Ooh” and “aah” over our new logo (because we have been!), but don’t stop there – use the icons from the logo in your Instagram Stories with our CASEP Instagram stickers! Just search for “CASEP” in the sticker library when you’re making an IG Story and bring harm reduction to your socials.
Above Image: CASEP California Syringe Exchange Programs Coalition
CASEP Instagram Stickers! 1. Start to make an IG story 2. Click the smiley face sticker icon 3. Type in “CASEP” in the search bar
While the CASEP Rising conference was for folks in our coalition – we did want to share with you all our amazing keynote talk by Jawanza James Williams. We hope when you listen along, you’ll feel just as called as we do to work towards a future of collective liberation rooted in the rights of people who use drugs.
Above Video: Click to watch the CASEP Rising 2021 Keynote by Jawanza James Williams
As you can see from this beautiful CASEP Rising 2021 goal setting graphic below from Radical Roadmaps, we have a lot of great work to do still. Stay tuned for more on how CASEP coalition takes on advocating for expanding syringe access and harm reduction for people who use drugs and engage in sex work.
Above Image: Multi color text and harm-reduction-related-doodles fill the graphic with notes from a goal-setting conversation that happened during the conference, including reflections on leadership development, decriminalization, building power, housing, abolition, mental health, policy and advocacy, safe supply, conflict resolution tools, paying people, and more