Story of Us
Coming together for equitable drug policy & dignified care
In Memory of Eileen Corcoran
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.
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.