By: Stella Barber, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator
Northern Kentucky was privileged to be chosen as the location for this year’s Kentucky Harm Reduction Summit. Many statewide agencies joined efforts to sponsor the Summit, which was held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center on April 9, 2019.
The Summit was very well received with nearly 400 individuals filling the event center to hear the many diverse voices of harm reduction. You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is harm reduction?” In general terms, harm reduction encompasses the practices, processes, programs and policies that aim to reduce the consequences of drug abuse.
The day’s agenda was overflowing with presentations and discussions about overcoming obstacles to harm reduction programs, and taking the “next step” in harm reduction initiatives. Those in attendance were able to better understand the role of law enforcement, elected officials, state and local agencies, community partners and families in achieving the objectives of harm reduction.
One of the national speakers, Jon Zibbell, PhD, discussed the overarching “hows” of drug addiction. During the lunch keynote, Austin Eubanks, survivor of both the Columbine shooting and substance abuse, relayed his personal story, the systems that failed him and the long and continuing road to recovery.
Leaders from the Kentucky Income Reinvestment Program brought forth the innovative harm reduction practices and programs they are spearheading to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in the population that abuses drugs. Education and training for health care providers, ensuring comprehensive services for those with HIV, and the use of risk reduction specialists in syringe exchange programs are several such programs.
During breakout sessions, Dr. Saddler spoke of the syringe access exchange program, its development, and current success in our jurisdiction. Wrapping up the day, Dr. Saddler participated in a Q & A panel discussion. The panel discussion took advantage of all the presenters that were available to provide additional knowledge on working syringe exchange programs, coordinated efforts to prevent opioid addiction, and several other topics.