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California Harm Reduction Initiative (CHRI)

Grantmaking & Capacity Building for California Syringe Services Programs

The California Harm Reduction Initiative (CHRI) is a grantmaking initiative that will directly fund syringe services programs in California as well as provide training, mentorship and learning opportunities. At Harm Reduction Coalition, we spent multiple years advocating alongside syringe services programs to create dedicated funding for staff statewide. We’re now spending time listening to exactly what projects programs want us to fund and will fund a range of projects that allow programs to expand their reach, scope, and depth. Our team will also continue to gather information on what support we can offer and how to create opportunities for California syringe services programs to come together. 

What is CHRI?

National Harm Reduction Coalition is the lead organization for the California Harm Reduction Initiative, also known as CHRI. CHRI was established by the California Budget Act of 2019, which included $15.2 million to strengthen substance use disorder response by supporting syringe services programs (SSPs). National Harm Reduction Coalition, in collaboration with California Department of Public Health, will act as a grantmaker to increase staffing at qualified SSPs and as a technical assistance provider to develop and deliver training, resources, and mentorship. The overarching goal of this project is to expand the range, reach, and quality of harm reduction services in California, and to establish and enhance collaborations between SSPs and other medical, social service, and substance use disorder treatment providers. National Harm Reduction Coalition is committed to ensuring CHRI centers racial equity and meaningful inclusion of people who use drugs by funding projects that center those most vulnerable to structural violence in California.

What led us to CHRI? 

The CHRI initiative began as an idea on butcher paper, captured during a collective visioning process at a 2017 convening of California Syringe Exchange Programs (CASEP). Syringe services program staff and volunteers identified a growing need –  they needed to increase their capacity to have dedicated staff to effectively reach people who are not in treatment, provide health education information including overdose prevention and link people to syringe access, overdose prevention, drug treatment, and healthcare services. In short, programs had costs for supplies (mostly) covered but no dedicated funding for staff positions to hand out those supplies. 

The California harm reduction community came together around a budget request called Community Opioid Response Resources & Education (CORRE), co-led by Drug Policy Alliance and national Harm Reduction Coalition to call for dedicated state funding to support staff in SSPs. After two years of advocacy, the CORRE budget request was signed by Governor Newsom, in the California Budget Act of 2019. This was a collaborative effort from beginning to end. Syringe services programs traveled to Sacramento for legislative hearings, built relationships with elected officials, and wrote letters in support. This was developed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Californians, by listening to them and the people working alongside them to identify what would be the most helpful and then funding that. For some people, it was their first time participating in any kind of advocacy let alone going to the Capitol to speak to their representatives. It was an opportunity to build leadership, tell their story, and tie it to a specific demand that would make a difference. 

“CHRI is a critical investment in harm reduction services that we haven’t seen for more than a decade in California. Ending HIV, hepatitis, and overdoses among people who use drugs won’t happen without sustainable funding. In one of the defining crises of our time, public officials in other states must demonstrate the same commitment for expanding harm reduction programs because lives depend on it.”

– Monique Tula, Executive Director at Harm Reduction Coalition 


Grantmaking

Harm Reduction Coalition will be funding up to $12.6 million in grants over a three year period that supports the expansion of harm reduction approaches to reduce the impact of drug-related harms throughout the state of California, including increasing capacity to connect individuals to a variety of services. If you’re a certified syringe services program in California, please consider applying. 

Training and Technical Assistance (TA)

In addition to funding syringe services programs directly, CHRI will increase capacity within national Harm Reduction Coalition’s California team to provide tailored technical assistance to programs, develop resources to increase program’s sustainability, and launch a learning collaborative. National Harm Reduction Coalition is also devoting resources to develop a peer leadership and mentorship program that will foster the growth of California harm reduction programs by providing grantees opportunities to visit each other’s sites, share skills, and develop a network of learning. 

Meet our team

Our team has grown to support the deepening and expansion of harm reduction nationally and in California. Over the past few years, California programs have grown, both in number and in power. We are especially proud to have partnered with harm reduction providers, advocates, and leaders across the state on: 

  • Co-sponsoring and advocating for AB 362, a bill to authorize Supervised Consumption Spaces (SCS) in San Francisco and possibly Oakland. 
  • Hosting the 2019 CASEP Conference with over 150 attendees from across California for two days of a relationship and coalition building, training and visioning 
  • Securing funding to support the expansion of harm reduction work in Southern California, including a specific focus on addressing drug-related harms disproportionately faced by Latinx, Black and Indigenous communities 
  • Partnered with CA Bridge, a project that offers low threshold Buprenorphine in emergency departments, to implement Naloxone distribution and other harm reduction services in hospitals. 
  • Solicited input from a variety of syringe services programs to inform our staffing structure leading to the addition of two remote positions aimed at supporting communities on the ground outside of our headquarters
  • Hosted first in a series of community convenings to bring stakeholders together in underserved regions in the state

In addition to the work of our other California initiatives, our team is very excited about the launch of CHRI.

“What’s been so inspiring about this process is seeing how the California harm reduction community came together to develop a plan to increase resources and strengthen programs. It wasn’t about individual programs scrambling to get funding for themselves, but a collective effort to lift up the entire community and build out program infrastructure. CHRI is just one example of what can come out of the collective brilliance and power of harm reduction programs working together.”

– Jenna Haywood, Capacity Building and Community Mobilization Manager

“I am so excited that after many years of Harm Reduction Coalition offering technical assistance, training and support on policy advocacy in California, we can offer what programs said they have needed most to reduce the social and health harms of drug use in their communities: People to do the work. We approached budget advocacy collectively and I am thrilled to be involved in approaching grantmaking the same way. After continuing to say ‘I don’t know where to get you money for your time’, we can actually listen to those exact needs, fund those projects, and support programs to continue to deepen the reach of the lifesaving harm reduction work they do, and respond to local community needs.”

– Savannah O’Neill, Capacity Building and Community Mobilization Manager
“We’re thrilled that through the California Harm Reduction Initiative we will be able to not only put much needed resources into the hands of the programs who are best positioned to meet the needs of their community, but also provide technical assistance to help them build their infrastructures and administrative capacity. CHRI is a huge win for our community. People and programs fought for these funds, and it is incredible to see it become a reality.”

Carolina Lopez, Deputy Director of Administration and Finance &
Helen Jones, Director of Operations
“While the funds secured through CHRI are going to impact thousands of people who use drugs and build capacity for harm reduction in California, the process of coming together to identify the need for funds and organize together was the big win. During the two year journey, we all saw our work as one piece of a bigger community sharing the belief that people who use drugs deserve access to services and the programs that deliver them deserve funding and sustained support. These funds affirm that harm reduction services are essential for California.”

– Dr. Taeko Frost, Sr. Director of Innovation & Strategy
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to expand Harm Reduction Coalition’s participatory grantmaking strategy via the California Harm Reduction Initiative. This opportunity allows us to collaboratively help improve the health outcomes of communities across the state of California by strengthening our local support and empowering community-based programs that are developing innovative solutions tailored to meet their individual needs. The holistic approach of direct funding, technical assistance, and navigation services support will help uplift and empower people who use drugs while ensuring they receive the care and dignity they deserve for years to come.” 

– Logan Benton, Grants Manager
“I’m so excited to support the CHRI team’s work as we partner with SSPs in California in their growth and in how they lift each other up and learn from one another. I know that the community’s effort to mobilize these funds was a huge lift–and testament to its collective organizing power. Likewise, I’m excited that our next steps feel collective in nature, as we commit as a team to listen and learn from folks most impacted as we push these funds out the door, and find ways to forge partnerships and new ways of working along the way. We’re glad to be on this road with all of you.” 

– Kate Goertzen, Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement
“Having just joined Harm Reduction Coalition, there is nothing that gives me more joy than the launching of the CHRI Initiative.  We must recognize, celebrate, appropriately resource and make visible the invaluable work and talents of our SSPs, who daily demonstrate the efficacy of harm reduction services and the importance of building close relationships with our communities by providing low-threshold programs, relevant supplies, education, and treatment-linkages. I can’t wait to see our partners learn and mentor each other, showcase different harm reduction service modalities, and define best practices that will make a deep impact in the current delivery of services and care for people who use drugs throughout the State of California!”

– Laura Guzman, Sr. Director of Capacity Building and Community Mobilization
“I’m excited at the opportunity to strengthen California’s public health and health equity infrastructure by building up the capacity of harm reduction programs across the state. We talk a lot about the role of these programs in access to naloxone and safer injection supplies, but in moments like these, we affirm their unique and vital role as platforms for outreach and engagement to some of our most vulnerable and marginalized community members. CHRI will be a source for hope, learning, and inspiration for years to come.”

– Daniel Raymond, Deputy Director of Planning and Policy

Join our team

We are also in hiring processes on multiple positions across the state to support this initiative, so there will be more people joining our California Harm Reduction Coalition team soon. Keep your eyes out for future positions supporting California work.

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