NHRC advocates for needed change with SAMHSA’s harm reduction framework


Framework is step in the right direction, and NHRC sees room for improvement


National Harm Reduction Coalition (NHRC) applauds the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as the first federal agency to release a “Harm Reduction Framework” with requests for feedback, and calls on SAMHSA to make necessary changes to save lives.

The Harm Reduction Framework was developed with community input including NHRC staff and partners, and identifies barriers people who use drugs face including the failed “War on Drugs,” aka a war on people and the historical lack of attention to racial justice and health equity in SAMHSA’s practices. While the development of the framework is a step in the right direction, NHRC calls on SAMHSA to revise the framework to address some additional harm reduction priority issues and areas of concern.

NHRC calls on SAMHSA to:

  • Acknowledge the effectiveness of Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs). These are essential harm reduction services that provide a safe and supervised environment for people to use drugs, and they have been proven to save lives. 
  • Address how many harm reductionists and people who use drugs do not view law enforcement as partners, and in fact, many people who use drugs avoid harm reduction services that have a law enforcement presence. 
  • Highlight the role of advocacy. Advocacy for policy change, including funding, is essential to ensure the success of harm reduction programs. Without funding and improved laws, it will be extremely difficult for harm reductionists to work with their communities to save lives. 
  • Provide specific details on how SAMHSA will integrate harm reduction into its work. Currently, it is not clear how SAMHSA will translate this framework into tangible action. The framework should be updated to provide specific details on how SAMHSA will integrate harm reduction into its work.

While the current draft framework is a good start, NHRC urges SAMHSA to address the issues we have identified to create a comprehensive final Harm Reduction Framework, save lives, and support communities across the U.S.

NHRC Acting Executive Director, Laura Guzman, said, “People who use drugs are the experts in their own lives, and harm reductionists follow their lead to empower entire communities and save lives. With this framework development, SAMHSA has the opportunity to make life-saving, necessary changes that will impact generations to come. By centering those most affected by drug use and listening to their needs, SAMHSA can help build a safer, healthier world for people who use drugs and all people.”