What is Harm Reduction?

When it comes to dealing with drug abuse and the stigma that surrounds it, using harm reduction tactics can be an effective and progressive strategy. Harm reduction is a set of workable strategies and ideas with the intent of reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use. These may look different for everyone. Strategies can range from safer use, more managed use, to total abstinence. Any strategies used are meant to support the individual and their goals related to their substance use. This also assists in providing a clearer understanding of their substance use. While there is no universal formula for implementing harm reduction, there are still a few key practices that can be successful harm such as:

  • Acknowledging the fact that drug use is a part of our world, but that its harmful effects can be reduced, rather than ignored or condemned.
  • Focusing on improving the quality of life of both the individual and the community as a basis for successful policies and interventions.
  • Incorporating non-judgmental and non-coercive services and resources into your treatment plans, to help reduce the chances of harm for drug users.
  • Recognizing that the drug users themselves are the key figure in reducing the harm they expose themselves to with their drug use, as well as encouraging and empowering users to share information and help each other with strategies that work for them.
  • Never understating or ignoring the real and regrettable harm and danger associated with drug use.
  • Acknowledging that people who use drugs or that have a history of drug use should inform the creation of programs and policies that impact them.
  • Understanding that every person who uses drugs has a unique experience. The differences in class, race, gender identification, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and potential trauma impacts every individual differently. We must take all factors into account when helping an individual with drug related harm.
  • To recognize that drug use is on a spectrum from severe misuse to abstinence and that some practices are more harmful than others.


Opioid Overdose Prevention

With the prevalence of more powerful opioids, such as Fentanyl, finding their way into common street drugs, there has never been a greater need for effective and fast-acting opioid overdose prevention treatments. One treatment stands out as a proven and lifesaving means of preventing an opioid overdose: Naloxone (also known as Narcan).

  • Naloxone  – known as an opioid antagonist, meaning that it blocks the opioid receptors and prevents the rewarding and soothing effects of any opioids as well. It is most readily available as a nasal spray, meant to be administered to anyone suffering from an opioid overdose. When administered, it effectively “ends” the user’s deadly high and provides a 30 to 90-minute window for the user to receive proper medical attention.
  • N-CAP (Naxolone Co-Payment Assistance Program) – a New York program meant to eliminate or greatly reduce the cost of co-payments when receiving Naxolone from a participating pharmacy.

Good Samaritan Law

The outcome of any overdose is largely determined by how quickly the person receives help, and often those who are overdosing or witnessing an overdose don’t call 911 out of fear of arrest. The New York State Good Samaritan Law protects everyone, regardless of age, who seeks medical help for themselves or someone else during an overdose. Even those who are in possession of illicit drugs (less than 8 ounces), drug paraphernalia, or alcohol where underage drinking is involved, don’t have to fear arrest or prosecution as a result of calling 911 for an overdose. This crucial law empowers and encourages anyone who witnesses an overdose to call 911 and get the victim the help they need.


Tips for Reducing Use

Managing addiction, especially using harm reduction strategy, requires a plan that’s tailored to the individual and their specific issues. When the goal is for the individual to reduce their drug use, there are several different methods to make use of:

  • Talk to them to get a better idea of their habits or “ritual” when it comes to using drugs and allow them to see the common factors in their drug use.
  • Once you know their “ritual” and setting, discuss potential ideas or means necessary to reduce their access to either.
  • Offer information and resources on licit drug-based treatments meant to reduce their overall intake, such as Methadone or Buprenorphine.
  • Establish a “self-care” plan with the individual, outlining the changes they wish to make, the reasons why they want to make changes, the steps they’ll take to make the changes, how other people can assist them in their changes, and what they’ll do if their plan isn’t working.

Medication Take-Back

In order to prevent misuse of medications, Columbia and Greene County have several locations where you can dispose  any of unused,unwanted, or expired prescription and nonprescription Medication. By disposing of medications properly you will:

  • Prevent drug abuse
  • Prevent accidental overdose
  • Prevent accidental poisoning of children and pets
  • Reduce crime by keeping drugs off the street
  • Reduce environment pollution
  • Protect our local nature and water supply

Columbia and Greene County Medication  Take Back Locations

Coxsackie Village Police Department
119 Mansion Street, Coxsackie
Open: 8am – 12am Daily

Chatham Police Department
77 Main Street, Chatham
Call CC Sheriff, ask for Chatham drop box

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office
85 Industrial Tract, Greenport
Open: 24/7

Columbia County Sheriff’s Substation
Crossroad at Rt 22 and Rt 23, Hillsdale
Open: 24/7

Greene County Sheriff’s Office
80 Bridge Street, Catskill
Open: 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday

Hudson Police Department
701 Union Street, Hudson
Open: 24/7

Hannaford Valatie
2967 Rt 9, Valatie
Open: 7am – 11pm Daily

Kelly’s Pharmacy
4852 Rt 81, Greeneville
Available during open hours

Kelly’s Pharmacy
12189 Rt 9W, West Coxsackie
Available during open hours

Town of Cairo Police Department
123 Angelo Canna Park, Cairo
Open: 8am – 12am Daily
Call to drop off: (518) 622-2324

Town of Durham Police Station
7309 Rt 81, East Durham
Open: 7am – 3pm Daily
Call to drop off: (518) 239-6310

Town of Windham Police Department
371 Rt 296, Hensonville
Open: 9am – 3pm Daily
Call to drop off: (518) 734-3030

View Additional locations in New York State

Carry Naloxone, learn more at healtogetherny.org

Carry naloxone (Narcan®). Help save a life.

Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a medicine that can save someone’s life if they are overdosing on opioids—whether it’s a prescription opioid pain medicine, heroin, or a drug containing fentanyl.

It is not a treatment for opioid addiction. Naloxone quickly blocks and reverses the effects of an overdose. You can tell it is working because it quickly helps a person breathe normally.

Signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Being unconscious
  • Very slow or shallow breathing
  • Limp body
  • Not responding when called, touched, or shaken

Carry naloxone with you every day. You can be a first responder. You can save a life.

Tips for Reducing the Risk of Overdose

If an individual is still over-using opioids, it’s crucial to establish a “safety list” meant to reduce the amount of harm they expose themselves to and reduce the risk of overdose as much as possible. A well-prepared list typically includes the following steps:

  • Try to know what it is that you’re using before injecting/taking it.
  • Make sure there’s someone who knows where you are and that you can check-in with them if necessary.
  • Make sure to carry Naxolone on you and have it out when you are using opioids.
  • If you’re unsure of the strength or composition of the drug, inject/use it slowly, gauge its strength, and wait before doing more.
  • If you’re using with other people, be sure and “stagger” each dose (allowing one person to use and seeing if their dose was too strong/laced with Fentanyl) and have Naxolone on hand if someone overdoses.
  • If you do suspect you or someone else is overdosing, don’t delay, apply Naxolone and call 911 immediately.

Project Safe Point and Greener Pathways

There are many programs and services designed to assist those who wish to manage their drug addiction or reduce the amount of harm they expose themselves to. Project Safe Point and Greener Pathways offer harm reduction services and resources, along with essential community outreach programs and addiction recovery services, in order to help individuals and their communities live safer, healthier lives.

  • Project Safe Point – A harm reduction service provider servicing the Greater Capital Region, and the originator of the area’s first Syringe Exchange Program. They are proud to offer syringe exchange services (free and completely anonymous), training in overdose prevention methods, treatment readiness programs and referrals to doctors and rehab clinics, and HIV and Hepatitis C screenings. Project Safe Point currently services 12 counties and offers syringe exchange services in other areas by appointment.
  • Greener Pathways – A Mobile Outreach Community program that provides individuals with many traditional and progressive recovery services such as personalized treatment programs, harm reduction resources, assistance with transportation, Telehealth sessions, peer to peer support networks and connection to medications to help support recovery.  Greener Pathways Peer Advocates use their lived recovery experience to help guide people on choosing their own pathway to recovery.

Syringe Kiosks and Syringe Exchange

One of the easiest and fastest ways for disease to spread among drug users is by sharing or re-using syringes. Typically, only those who are prescribed medication have access to fresh, clean syringes, but there are now many syringe kiosks and syringe exchanges in or around Columbia and Greene Counties that can reduce the risk of contracting diseases such as Hep-C or HIV.

  • Syringe Kiosk – Generally a kiosk or anonymous drop box where users can safely and securely dispose of their used syringes, these are usually present at syringe exchanges as well. There are currently several kiosks/drop boxes located within or nearby Columbia and Greene Counties.
  • Syringe Exchange – A site that provides users with fresh, sterile syringes (typically without needing a prescription), in addition to providing a secure and safe site to dispose of their used syringes. Syringe exchanges often offer additional services to individuals, such as Hep-C or HIV screenings, along with Naloxone and other helpful harm reduction resources.