Abolish the Drug War Coalition Applauds Historic Harm Reduction Funding in American Rescue Plan

Signed by President Biden this afternoon, the law will provide new federal funding to support expansion of life-saving harm reduction services across New Jersey.

TRENTON, NJ – As President Joe Biden today signed the American Rescue Plan, Abolish the Drug War New Jersey applauded the legislation’s historic $4 billion investment to help address substance use disorder and mental health issues that are fueling New Jersey’s overdose epidemic, including $30,000,000 in funding for community-based substance use support services like syringe services programs and other harm reduction interventions. Members of the coalition released the following statements: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created devastating new strains on people’s lives and restricted access to adequate services and treatment. We need to double down on practices that meet people who use drugs where they are, with tools and support to help them stay alive and set self-determined goals about their own wellbeing. We know that people who have access to harm reduction programs are less likely to die from a fatal overdose, five times more likely to start a drug treatment program, and three times more likely to abstain from drug use altogether. With this historic funding from the federal government, it’s time for New Jersey to significantly ramp up the expansion of harm reduction services to every corner of our state,” stated Jenna Mellor, Executive Director at New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition.

“My two sons were failed immeasurably by antiquated policies and beliefs around drug use and my wish is for no one else to ever experience a loss like my own from preventable overdoses. The funds from the American Rescue Plan will save lives and educate our communities on harm reduction measures that will help curve overdose fatalities. I do this work for my sons, and with this legislation, we can continue fighting for lives, restoring health, and empowering families,” said Carol Beyer, President and Co-Founder of Families for Sensible Drug Policy.

“Through the American Rescue Plan, the federal government is finally acknowledging the importance and effectiveness of harm reduction strategies to end the devastating overdose crisis – which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Last year alone, New Jersey lost over 3,000 people to overdose deaths, with death rates growing disproportionately in communities of color,” stated Nafeesah Goldsmith, Assistant Director of International Relations & Cannabis Research at Prodigal Sons and Daughters Redirection Services. “New Jersey has taken a first step in rectifying the overdose crisis by decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, but the state must continue to push forward in dismantling oppressive drug policies and investing in all communities.” 

“Today’s signature from the President marks a monumental path forward for harm reduction measures, an integral practice in preventing HIV and Hepatitis C especially among Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities and people living at the intersections of these identities,” said Wesley McWhite, Policy Manager at Hyacinth Foundation. “$30 million dollars dedicated to harm reduction measures will lend us the ability to continue providing for our communities.” 

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ABOUT ABOLISH THE DRUG WAR NEW JERSEY

Abolish the Drug War coalition is a call to action to end the drug war. We denounce the criminal justice approach to what should be a public health issue. We are working to confront and dismantle the systems and policies that contribute to and sustain the drug war in New Jersey, which is effectively a war on Black and Brown communities.

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Members of Abolish the Drug War New Jersey include: Salvation and Social Justice; Families for Sensible Drug Policy; New Jersey Policy Perspective; New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition; ACLU-NJ; Institute of the Black World 21st Century; Latino Action Network; Faith In New Jersey; Newark Community Street Team; National Center for Advocacy and Recovery for Behavioral Health (NCAARBH); Reimagining Justice; Paterson Healing Collective; 1906 New Highs; and Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

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Harm reduction is essential. A harm reduction approach to drug use is the best strategy we have to end the overdose crisis, reduce risks associated with drug use, and affirm the dignity and bodily autonomy of every New Jerseyan.

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