Statement: Abolish the Drug War Coalition reacts to Biden Administration’s latest effort to curb the overdose crisis

In response to the Biden Administration’s announcement of $30 million in harm reduction funding to support states and organizations who are responding to the nation’s devastating overdose crisis, members of Abolish the Drug War—New Jersey, a coalition of New Jersey drug war survivors, families, faith leaders, and advocacy organizations, released the following statement.
Caitlin O’Neill, Director of Harm Reduction Services at New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition:

“New Jersey is on a devastating trajectory to lose more people this year than ever before to overdose deaths. For far too long, New Jersey has treated drug use as a criminal issue, not one of public health — and our state investments reflect that.

“It’s clear that the punitive approach is not working to end overdose, and instead it is actively annihilating us. In using federal dollars, New Jersey must provide financial opportunities to community-based harm reduction groups who are on-the-ground preventing overdose deaths and implementing compassionate alternatives to drug war punishments.

“New Jersey’s seven Harm Reduction Centers and community-based naloxone distributors like Newark Community Street Team and Black Lives Matter Paterson are showing up every day for people who use drugs in their communities, without judgment or expectations, but with evidence-informed harm reduction support and unconditional care. This is the lifesaving work that New Jersey must invest in and scale, to end the overdose crisis and to begin to repair the harms of the drug war.”

Reverand Charles Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice:

“This week’s announcement from the SAMHSA is a welcome step in the right direction to charting a new course that will help save lives. We cannot end the overdose crisis nor heal substance use disorder with punishment and imprisonment. We have an opportunity to fund more of what works — but we must remain vigilant.

“It is critical that this funding not be used to perpetuate the status quo that continues to reinforce law enforcement approaches to the drug war actively fueling overdose deaths and systemic racism without ending preventable overdose deaths. And funding decisions should be led by people most harmed by the overdose crisis and drug war — for real change to take place, the impacted communities must be involved in recommending the solutions that will help our neighborhoods thrive.”

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Members of Abolish the Drug War —New Jersey include: Salvation and Social Justice; 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 (NCAAR-BH); Reimagining Justice; Paterson Healing Collective; 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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