Story of Us

Coming together for equitable drug policy & dignified care 

“Let’s organize!”

New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) was formed by people who use drugs, people who used to use drugs, people in recovery, people who have lost loved ones to overdose, people harmed by the drug war, faith leaders, and concerned community members.
We formed in 2019 after the recent closure of the New Jersey affiliate of the Drug Policy Alliance.
We came together because equitable drug policy and dignified care are not only the best tools we have to end the overdose crisis, they are also morally imperative.
We knew we needed a space to unite harm reduction champions who are aligned with intersecting movements for racial, economic, and social justice in New Jersey.
We needed a space to build New Jersey’s infrastructure for a harm reduction response to drug use, and address the gaps in the continuum of care for people who use drugs that we see in our lives and work.
New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition is that space.
Caitlin and Jennie at NJDOH Harm Reduction Conference
Story of Us

In Memory of Eileen Corcoran

The world lost harm reduction leader Eileen Corcoran, a founding member of NJHRC, in Summer 2019. We hold her legacy close and hope to honor the wisdom she shared with us.

On July 19, 2019, we lost Eileen Corcoran at the age of 56. Originally from Keansburg, NJ, Eileen returned to her home state after years of harm reduction leadership nationally. She was excited to bring her wisdom, experience, and compelling personal self to the mission of expanding harm reduction services in New Jersey.

Eileen met Robert Lowry, the Syringe Access Program Coordinator in Asbury Park, at an Overdose Prevention Awareness Day event she planned in her hometown of Keansburg. Robert quickly recruited her to join the Asbury program as a Harm Reduction Specialist. There, Eileen was a force for connection, peer leadership, and bringing old and new friends into the fold of harm reduction. She was especially looking forward to integrating sex worker outreach and creating opportunities for peers, which is how she got her start in harm reduction in Seattle.

Even though Eileen is not with us today, her legacy and impact resound, and her presence cannot be replaced. We believe—based on Eileen’s impact as a founding member of NJHRC—that she would have called on us to think about how people closest to the harms of the drug war and overdose crisis can be centered in harm reduction work, especially when we think about naloxone distribution, secondary exchange, and paid opportunities.

She would have encouraged us to center the voices and leadership of people who are experts in harm reduction because they practice it every day. She would have reminded us that traditional recovery models do not work for everyone—and, in fact, the people they fail are often not here to tell us their stories.

Eileen would have encouraged us to find allies, friends, stakeholders, and new people to bring into this work while holding the principles and values of harm reduction close. One of Eileen’s last meetings was with Keansburg officials about the Overdose Awareness Day she was planning on August 31.

Eileen’s obituary says it well: “Her energy will spread like a wildfire. She modeled what compassion, dignity, loyalty, and love for others are.” We hope that a little yet powerful bit of her energy catches you today. We know it has caught us.

Eileen Corcoran

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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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