Harm reduction is a public health strategy to reduce the harms associated with certain behaviors. Harm reduction programs have been used to decrease adverse consequences of illicit drug use, alcohol use, mental illness and other illnesses. Although harm reduction strategies are sometimes seen as conflicting with traditional treatment approaches, the strategies are increasingly and appropriately being recognized as important to the continuum of care. Harm reduction strategies provide an opportunity to engage with individuals, offer broad assistance to those who are struggling, help them survive their current circumstances, decrease the likelihood that their behaviors will harm others, and provide opportunities for entry into other parts of the care continuum as they strive to improve their lives.
Harm reduction is helpful for individuals with mental health and addiction conditions and the communities where they reside. For example, suicide prevention is an area where harm reduction approaches can be of value. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Ohio. Unfortunately, many of these suicides have a high prevalence of firearms use. Safe storage of firearms could reduce this number. The Ohio Department of Mental Health has been collaborating with the Buckeye Firearms Association on a campaign to educate the public on safe storage and signs of suicide to address this issue.
Harm reduction is an underdeveloped component of Ohio’s care continuum. Enhancing this has the potential to save lives and make communities safer and healthier.
To improve harm reduction programming in the state, the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council recommends:
30. Exploring Evidence-based Harm Reduction
Investigate the outcomes of states with heavily evidenced models of policy-controlled harm reduction strategies, such as New York and Massachusetts, and the impact of these efforts on public health, including reducing the spread of infectious diseases, limiting the use of emergency rooms for primary care, and increasing connections to hard-to-reach populations at risk of overdose.
31. Promoting Harm Reduction
Strengthen collaboration among the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and local governments, including ADAMH Boards and others in Ohio, to push forward a multiprong campaign with education and implementation support to increase the spread of comprehensive harm reduction initiatives, such as naloxone- availability and vaccination programs.
32. Increasing Naloxone Availability
Assess every community for the accessibility of naloxone for overdose reversal and remove barriers to promote greater use.