BHRC contributes to local, state, and national advocacy efforts that align with our vision and values.
BHRC Public Policy Platform
What is Harm Reduction Public Policy?
Fundamentally, “harm reduction” is a philosophy and a set of practical, nonjudgmental principles used to reduce the potentially detrimental consequences of human behavior. In practice, strategies range from the common practice of wearing a seatbelt while riding in a car to more progressive ideas such as sanctioning safe consumption spaces for people who use drugs. Harm reduction encompasses a broad range of evidence-based practices that improve public health, promote dignity and justice, and encourage personal agency.
Harm reduction public policy seeks to formalize these practices through the legislative process while expanding public discourse around effective, though sometimes controversial, solutions. Current examples of harm reduction policy discussions revolve around decriminalization or legalization of drug use and sex work, criminal sentencing reforms, “housing first” policies, Good Samaritan laws and overdose response.
What We Do
Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC) urges Maryland decision makers to incorporate harm reduction principles in the designing and implementing of public policy. Through expert analysis and research, BHRC assists in drafting and improving legislation in order to translate harm reduction principles into effective practice. BHRC also engages stakeholders statewide to move harm reduction public policy forward.
What We Stand For
BHRC works to eliminate the existing disparities in the provision of health care and basic human services for people engaged in behaviors historically stigmatized by society such as drug use, sex work, and homelessness. BHRC seeks to reduce these stigmas by implementing evidence-based policies, encouraging self-determination, and including people with lived experience in policy discussions. Harm reduction is a multifaceted integration of public health, social justice, and individual choices that maximizes individual and community health and well being while avoiding infringement of personal freedom.
What We Have Accomplished
Since the inception of the BHRC Policy Team in 2013, we have educated and advocated on numerous harm reduction policy issues including:
- Expanding syringe access across Maryland by assisting in drafting Delegate Lam’s 2015 syringe access expansion legislation
- Passing both the first (2013) and the second Good Samaritan overdose immunity laws in Maryland (2015)
- Legislation that would authorize establishment of legally sanctioned safe consumption spaces statewide
- Work with the BRIDGES coalition for safe consumption spaces as a community approach to creating grassroots demand for legislation
- Creating a state-authorized overdose prevention and naloxone distribution program in 2013
- Increasing naloxone access through a 2015 change in law
- Ending the federal ban on syringe exchange funding
- Increasing services for Hepatitis infected individuals, including creating equitable drug cost and access opportunities
These are some policies BHRC supports based on our past experience and current endeavors:
- “Health first” and “housing first” policies that expand access to health care and housing by meeting the individual where they are rather than discriminating based on substance use, sexual or gender preference, or any other socially stigmatized factor.
- Legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of all drug use in order to further the goal of treating substance use as a public health and social justice issue as opposed to a criminal issue.
- Equitable, non-racially biased criminal sentencing reform that recognizes that the criminal justice system and the War on Drugs are inextricably linked to a system of institutionalized racism.
- Increased access to evidence based public health programs that empower drug users, health care providers, and society at large such as overdose response trainings, syringe access programs, safer drug use sites, and universally affordable Hepatitis C and HIV medications.
- Sex-positive education strategies, the decriminalization of sex work, and reproductive rights policies that promote broader social acceptance of the diverse methods of family planning such as contraceptives and abortion.
BHRC engages students, community members, and community organizations in advocacy education and activities in order to encourage grassroots demand for harm reduction principles in the context of policy creation and implementation.