November 20, 2023 (New Brunswick) — New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) announced today that the organization is expanding its mail-based naloxone and harm reduction program. To manage the expansion, NJHRC is pleased to announce the hire of Sheilah Powell (she/her) as Manager of Mail-Based Services and Community Distribution.
Sheilah is a communications expert and a recovery support leader whose work is informed by her lived experience as a person in recovery and also as an affected family member. She also has direct lived experience and recovery with intimate partner and domestic violence and disordered eating. In her new role, Sheilah will grow NJHRC’s free and confidential mailing of naloxone and fentanyl test strips to people who use drugs and their networks across New Jersey. This mail-based program, in operation since 2019, delivers lifesaving supplies to the “first of the first” responders, empowering residents to reverse overdoses within their communities.
In 2023 alone, NJHRC has distributed over 10,000 doses of naloxone which have been used in at least 140 overdose reversals. To amplify distribution, NJHRC is also partnering with the New Jersey Department of Health to distribute supplies to overdose hotpots and is collaborating with the state on a far-reaching communications campaign about the availability of mail-based naloxone and syringe access. NJHRC is also the state affiliate of NEXT Distro, an online and mail-based harm reduction service.
“What started as an all-volunteer operation out of our living rooms is now a full-service, professionally-staffed hub supporting people who use drugs and their loved ones all over the state. We are beyond fortunate that Sheilah is joining NJHRC to bring our mail-based services to the next level,” said Jenna Mellor, Executive Director of NJHRC. “Anyone who knows Sheilah knows that she embodies the spirit of harm reduction. Her unparalleled experience in recovery advocacy, communications, and leadership development will make sure harm reduction supplies are getting to the people who need them most.”
Prior to joining NJHRC, Sheilah Powell was a peer recovery specialist and social media lead at WEconnect Health Management and content strategist for Mobilize Recovery and Recovery Advocacy Project, where in 2022 she covered over 10,000 miles of the country helping to distribute naloxone and fentanyl test strips. Sheilah entered recovery in 2015 and sustains her wellness through various pathways including Recovery Dharma, medication, Harm Reduction, and advocacy. Since the start of the pandemic, Sheilah has personally facilitated over 500 online and in-person virtual recovery meetings and trainings.
“I am so excited and honored to join the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition team in expanding harm reduction services to every corner of the Garden State,” said Sheilah Powell, NJHRC Manager of Mail-Based Services and Community Distribution. “Promoting the safety and dignity of people who use substances is my passion, and I am dedicated to helping affirm the bodily autonomy of all New Jersey residents. You can expect to hear lots more from me as we grow our mail-based program that will touch every county in New Jersey and help keep so many New Jerseyans alive.”
In addition to her work with NJHRC, Sheilah facilitates trainings with Mainstream Recovery, curates and manages social media for the National Coalition for Drug Legalization, serves as the board secretary of Ruby’s Vision, Inc. in Paterson, and is an active volunteer for The Phoenix and Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp for children.
Once volunteer-led, NJHRC’s team has grown to a staff of ten. Sheilah joins Anthony Gray, Jr. (Direct Services Coordinator), who has operated mailing since 2020. The supply distribution team also includes Wanda Simmons (Inventory Lead), Tina Martinez and Justin King (Harm Reduction Supply Assistants), and Milton “Keith” Pittman (Community Ambassador). All harm reduction supplies come with drug user health information designed by Caitlin O’Neill, NJHRC co-founder and Drug User Health and Liberation Strategist. Learn more about the NJHRC staff here.
New Jersey residents and grassroots/mutual aid groups looking for naloxone and fentanyl test strips can request them from NJHRC for free and confidentially by calling or texting 1-877-4NARCAN or visiting njharmreduction.org. Here is feedback from others who have requested supplies:
- “It’s important because some people don’t have to struggle to find a lifesaving medicine, they make it easy. It’s wonderful.”
- “This program has given me the ability to help my family member with their addiction. Being able to receive supplies and support is crucial especially in areas where little help is available.”
- “Because of this program I had Narcan at home and thankfully saved my son’s life. He was clean for 6 months and relapsed and then overdosed twice in one week.”
- “Because of this program, we were able to save my brother-in-law’s life.”
- “I overdosed in 2018 and am here today because of naloxone. I ordered my rescue kit and within 2 months of having it I was able to pay it forward and save a life! I carry it everywhere!!!!”
- “Thank you very much for all you have done for my family without judgement.”