BSHRC contributes to local, state, and national advocacy efforts that align with our vision and values.
BSHRC Public Policy Platform
What is Harm Reduction Public Policy
In its simplest form, “harm reduction” can be defined as a set of practical, non-judgmental strategies that reduce the potentially harmful consequences of human behavior. What does this mean? It can be something as common as wearing a seatbelt while riding in a car to more progressive ideas like providing safe injection sites for people who inject drugs. Harm reduction is both a philosophy and practice and encompasses a wide range of evidence-based activities that improve public health outcomes and increase individual self-determination.
Harm reduction public policy seeks to formalize these practices through the legislative process while expanding public discourse around effective, though sometimes controversial, health solutions. Some examples of current harm reduction policy discussions revolve around decriminalization or legalization of drug use, ending the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs, criminal sentencing reforms, “housing first” homelessness policies, Good Samaritan laws and many more.
What we do
BSHRC’s policy team acts as a point of reference for Maryland and local legislators on all harm reduction policies. BSHRC assists in drafting legislation by providing expert analysis and research while educating policy and thought leaders on comprehensive harm reduction public policy. BSHRC also engages in coalitions to move harm reduction public policy forward.
Our goal is to serve as the major resource for all policy makers when they begin to think about drafting and implementing harm reduction-related approaches at both the State and local levels, especially within Baltimore City.
What We Have Accomplished
Since the inception of the BSHRC 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)
- 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
What We Stand For
BSHRC prioritizes its advocacy on issues often stigmatized by society, such as drug use, homelessness, and sex work. BSHRC seeks to reduce stigma by implementing sensible, evidence-based harm reduction policies; encouraging self-determination in personal decisions; expanding the range of evidence-based practices in healthcare; and, seeking increased funding for programs that support these principles. Harm reduction itself is a multifaceted approach that integrates public health and individual autonomy in order to promote equitable and sustainable health outcomes.
These are some policies BSHRC 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 injection 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.
Engaging students and community members in grassroots advocacy remains an ongoing activity for BSHRC.
- Spearheaded local efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland; The Civil Marriage Protection Act was passed in 2012
- Organized the Baltimore delegation for the We Can End AIDS march in 2013 held in Washington D.C.
- Organized two town hall meetings that served as advocacy platforms for people living with HIV/AIDS in Baltimore