New public education campaign features New Jersey resident stories about the benefits of syringe access

Today, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) launched “Essential, Effective, Human,” a public education campaign promoting the public health and human benefits of syringe access.

The campaign features the stories of seven New Jersey residents — people who have benefited from syringe access, faith leaders, physicians, and syringe service providers — who support syringe access in their communities. 

“We’re losing so many of our loved ones and neighbors to overdose deaths, and yet we’re not expanding essential overdose prevention services like syringe access,” said Rev. Dr. Leslie Harrison, who explains how substance use disorder is a health condition and needs a public health response. “Funeral homes will call me because they can’t get anybody to do the funeral. Some ministers won’t do overdose funerals. Enough is enough, it’s time to end the stigma and embrace harm reduction.”

“Essential, Effective, Human” was produced by Luceo Images and includes an interactive website and social media toolkit highlighting resident stories and scientific evidence about the benefits of syringe access, along with digital ads and billboards across the Garden State. 

“I’m taking care of my health. I’m going to doctor’s appointments. I’m eating better. I’m living better. I feel better,” said Tina, a harm reduction program participant who explains how harm reduction services connect people to care at their own pace. 

The campaign is part of a growing movement to modernize New Jersey’s current syringe access laws, which are more restrictive than those of many states, including Kentucky, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Georgia. If New Jersey had as many syringe access programs (SAPs) as Kentucky, the state would have over 150 programs; currently, there are only seven SAPs serving the Garden State. 

“The numbers don’t lie. Individuals who come to our place, they have less chance of overdosing because they have support systems. We provide harm reduction strategies, like naloxone and fentanyl test strips,” said Eddie Frierson, Syringe Access Manager at Hyacinth Foundation, who explains how syringe access programs work to prevent overdose and infections. “Harm Reduction Centers are a really important piece of the community because we’re that mediary to say, hey, if you want detox or you want to get healthy, hey, we’re here for you. If you don’t, whenever you’re ready, here are the services that we provide.”

The New Jersey Legislature is currently considering legislation (S-3009/A-4847) to make syringe access services available to all residents regardless of ZIP code. Bill sponsors include legislators who represent districts with SAPs and want to see their success replicated, as well as legislators whose districts have been hit hard by the overdose crisis yet do not currently have access to this lifesaving health service.

The urgency of syringe access expansion is felt more than ever, with the recent CDC announcement that overdose deaths climbed by 30 percent across the United States, and as New Jersey is on the verge of losing more residents this year to overdose deaths than ever before. 

When people have access to syringe services, they are:

  • Less likely to die from an overdose
  • Five times more likely to connect to drug treatment
  • Three times more likely to stop substance use that causes problems in their lives
  • 50 percent less likely to acquire HIV and Hepatitis C

Legislation to modernize New Jersey’s syringe access law is supported by ACLU-NJ, Camden AHEC, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Garden State Equality, Hyacinth Foundation, National Association of Social Workers-NJ, New Jersey LGTBQ Democrats, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Newark Community Street Team, NJCRI, Salvation and Social Justice, South Jersey AIDS Alliance, and Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey. 

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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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