ACCESS TO HARM REDUCTION
CAMPAIGN TOOLKIT: ACCESS TO HARM REDUCTION
Creating safer campuses and communities
Many campuses and communities approach drug use with a “just say no” attitude, believing that shutting down conversations around alcohol and other drugs will be sufficient to reduce harm. Instead, the lack of information and punitive policies has exacerbated harms related to drug use. Young people may overdose, become injured, or have very negative experiences when using substances because of a lack of drug education. Others don’t call for help when their friend has overdosed because they are unfamiliar with their school’s Good Samaritan Policy and are worried about getting in trouble. Still others could easily save a life if they were trained in how to administer naloxone. All of these things are examples of harm reduction policies and programs that can create safer campuses and communities.
Harm reduction is any action which reduces the risk of having a negative experience. With regard to drugs, it is a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use, and incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use to abstinence.
Harm reduction is also considered a social justice movement based on the belief that people who use drugs have rights. Because true harm reduction should be designed to meet people where they are, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction. Rather, harm reduction should be based on the individual and community’s needs. Harm reduction posits, “Any positive change”, meaning any positive change one makes, however small, can be celebrated in the interest of empowering more positive changes.
The harm reduction movement began in the 1980’s as a response to health crises in the injection drug use community. Today, the movement is about protecting the rights of people who use drugs and marginalized communities in a variety of ways.
Strategies for Change
Harm reduction based policies can be implemented at the campus, local, or state level and should include a public opinion and education campaign.
Public opinion and education
Devote a chapter meeting to educate chapter members and the community on harm reduction and what they can do to advocate for harm reduction. Consider:
- What is harm reduction? How is your school/state/country’s drug policy an example of harm reduction? Where does it fail to reduce harm? What about your school/country’s education, harm reduction, or treatment referral programs? Do they only promote abstinence from substance use, or do they also offer steps and guidance on how to reduce harm? In what ways could your school improve? Compile this into a presentation. Check out the resources on Harm Reduction from SSDP Peer Education Training Curriculum for guidance.
- Brainstorm: Allow enough time for chapter members to talk about the issue and decide what direction your chapter wants to go. There are probably many ways that drug policy, education, and programs could be improved on campus. Use this guide as a starting point. Remember, successful drug policy advocacy and reform should be designed to meet people where they are, and be tailored based on your campus and community’s interests and needs. Consider forming a committee to spearhead efforts.
Write a Letter To the Editor (LTE) about the importance of harm reduction. One of the easiest ways to get press is to write a Letter To the Editor (LTE). The Media Awareness Project is a clearinghouse for LTEs about the Drug War, and has a section specifically for Harm Reduction. It is user-friendly, and offers tips on how to write a LTE.
- Tips to Getting Published:
- Make it Local. Relate it to an article recently published in the source.
- Find an Angle. Is your school thinking about implementing a new harm reduction policy or practice? Or, did you find some startling news through your research? Hook your readers.
- Make it Timely. News is now. Respond to a published article within a day or two.
- Follow Directions. Different newspapers have different deadlines and word requirements.
- Simple is Best. Make one argument. Third grade reading level is standard.
- Use your Resources. Check out LTE Tips on our Resources page for a guide. Contact your Outreach Coordinator if you have any questions.
- Spread the Word. When your LTE is published, be sure to post it to various Facebook groups, and let your Outreach Coordinator know! Your OC will help you publicize it on Facebook and on the SSDP website.
- Make media a cornerstone of your chapter’s actions. Think about it every time your chapter does anything. The Media Survival Guide includes advice on press releases and doing interviews. Contact your SSDP team member for press lists and talking points.
Invite a Harm Reduction Expert to your campus. Build support and awareness of the issue by inviting a speaker to your campus. Below are some steps to a successful event:
- Find a Good Speaker. Good speakers convey enthusiasm, build a sense of community, and impart important information. As a general rule, don’t pay for an honorarium unless your student government funds it. Enough drug policy experts are stoked for the opportunity. Ask your SSDP team member or SSDP Chapter Leaders for recommendations.
- Book the event. The core organizer should nail down a date, time, and location that works for chapter members, the speaker, and the university. Check your school’s calendar to make sure your event won’t have to compete with the same audience. Allow at least one month to plan for the event.
- Pack the House. Find a few professors or TAs to offer extra credit for students attending the event. Blast chapter lists, personal lists, and social media such as the SSDP Chapter Leaders Facebook group as well as the Regional/State/Country Facebook groups). Advertise in the school newspaper, flier, and chalk the sidewalks/classroom boards if allowed by your school administration. Make announcements in related classes. Invite the student government, professors, and key administrators.
- Press. Designate one person as the media spokesperson, email / fax out a media advisory or press release to a campus or local newspaper, and follow-up.
- Advance Work. Call and confirm your invited speaker’s arrival time, equipment needs, and lodging. Arrive early at the airport to pick them up. Have a backup plan: what will you do if the speaker is late? What if the room has no chairs?
- Bang for your Buck. Collect names, email addresses, and phone numbers from attendees. Unless they opt-out, add them to your chapter list. Promote your organization before the event, set up a table, and stick around for questions.
- Follow-up. Be sure to send the speaker a thank-you note, add attendees to your chapter list, and email them about the next meeting.
Persuade Student Government, Administrators, and Faculty Government to Support Harm Reduction Policies and Programs. There are many harm reduction policies, practices, and programs that your chapter can advocate for on campus. Resolutions can be a powerful way to exemplify student support for these initiatives to community members, media, and legislators and can be helpful for when SSDP members meet with stakeholders. To lobby your Student Government and Faculty Government:
- Find a Champion. Do your research, and find a student government representative, administrator, or faculty member that will help you pass the resolution. Contact the person and email them a legislative paper and request a meeting. Here is a sample legislative paper on Treatment and Prevention Accessibility.
- Know the Process. Ask your champion what you need to do to get the resolution passed. It may involve presenting your argument at a meeting, educating other members, and gathering signatures for a petition.
- Garner Media. This is a great time to write an opinion-editorial about why it is important for student government to pass a resolution in support of harm reduction. Positive press will help. Notify the press when you pass the resolution.
- Use your Resources. Keep SSDP updated on your progress. Your SSDP team member is here to help you with logistics, talking points, and legislative questions.
Some examples of policies:
- Establish formal harm reduction policies for student groups hosting parties on campus. Student groups on campus often exist as the center of social life on campus, yet each group has varying degrees of commitment to harm reduction policies and practices. Check out Stanford's Party Pros for a set of important policies that students should keep in mind when throwing parties that can help keep themselves and their campus community healthier and safer. Lobby university administration to make these policies standard across all student groups.
- Advocate for naloxone access on campus. Check out this presentation from University of Texas at Austin to learn more about how students, faculty, and community members were able to coordinate to get this passed on campus.
Some examples of programs:
- Start a drug resource center on campus. Scarlett Swerdlow, SSDP’s former Executive Director and alumni of the UC Berkeley SSDP chapter, worked with UC Berkeley SSDP to procure funding and start a drug resource center on campus. The drug resource center provides free, factual, science-based drug education information to students. The center frequently educates fraternities and sororities about ways to drink responsibly. The SSDP chapter from University of California Santa Cruz, led by Richard Hartnell, has also convinced the campus health services program to house drug checking kits. The SSDP chapter pays an important role by raising awareness about the program and referring students to those resources.
- Coordinate a naloxone training. Opioid overdose has been on the rise over the past few years. Naloxone, or Narcan is a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. Coordinate a Naloxone training for RAs, campus police, other students. Contact your Outreach Coordinator for more information. Check out SSDP Peer Education’s presentation and facilitator’s guide on opioids.
- Start a peer-to-peer education program on campus. You can become certified as a peer educator through SSDP’s Just Say Know Peer Education Program, and then use the Training Curriculum to put together the training curriculum for your campus peer education program. After assembling a group of college peer educators, you might even try taking the program to a local high school. Contact Vilmarie at email@example.com for guidance on how to implement the peer education program on your campus.
- Start a Safe Ride program. Safe Ride is a service provided to students as a safe and free alternative to walking alone after dark. Safe Ride drivers provide rides from to and from campus.
- University of Connecticut SSDP started UConn Sober Rides because the school sponsored sober ride program was discontinued. As chapter leader,Tyler S. WIlliams mobilized SSDP volunteers to drive people home safely. Students could call the number, and drivers would arrive to take students anywhere around campus for just $2 to cover gas!
- Sometimes the campus will already have its own school-led program, like Dickinson Safety Shuttle or Northwestern Safe Ride. However, there are always opportunities for improvement, whether it’s extending hours or possible pick-up / drop-off locations.
- Start a Group Walk program. Group Walks are a great way to encourage people to watch out for one another and get home safely. Check out Dickinson Campus Escort for a model example of this program.
- Start a party monitor program. UC Santa Barbara’s Life of the Party Peers program is a student-run organization that promotes safe partying and drinking. Their main page provides harm reduction tips based on whether you are a Partygoer, a Partythrower, going to local bars, or need help in case of an emergency. Stanford's Party Pros also work with students to teach responsible party planning and alcohol risk management.
- Advocate for state or federal overdose prevention programs and policies. There are numerous policy changes and programs that can be made at the state or federal level, including increasing funding for research and interventions, launching public and professional education campaigns, eliminating legal barriers to overdose reversal interventions, enacting Good Samaritan Policies, and more. The Harm Reduction Coalition also has overdose advocacy materials.
Local Speakers and Organizations
The Harm Reduction Coalition maintains a current list of harm reduction service providers. Additionally, SSDP maintains a list of recommended speakers.