Founded in 2011, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC) is a community-based organization that mobilizes community members for the health, dignity, and safety of people targeted by the war on drugs and anti sex-worker policies; we advocate for harm reduction as a part of a broader movement for social justice. We implement public health services and advocate for policies to expand harm reduction in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. We believe in the value and dignity of all people and that we have a duty to assist in each other’s safety.
Aline Thompson | system admin + administrative assistant
Aline joined BHRC in May 2019 as a work-technology educator, later transitioning to her current role in November 2019. Additionally, Aline is a chapter representative for SWOP Baltimore.
Harriet Smith | executive director
Harriet joined BHRC in April 2017. She brings over fifteen years of experience with various Baltimore area harm reduction, racial justice, and equity focused organizations and projects. She is also a long-time facilitator and board member with Baltimore Racial Justice Action (BRJA). Harriet received her master’s degree in gender studies with a focus on health and sexuality from Towson University.
Owen O’Keefe | state-wide organizer + harm reduction educator
Owen joined BHRC in December 2018 as an intern. A lifelong resident of Maryland, Owen is deeply passionate about expanding compassionate services for people who use drugs in all regions of the state. He provides four years of experience organizing with Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Owen obtained a bachelor’s degree in behavioral and community health from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Rajani Gudlavalleti | community organizing manager
Rajani joined BHRC in January 2018, bringing with her over a decade of experience working at the intersections of social justice, public health, and the legal system. In March 2017, she partnered with BHRC and several other harm reduction leaders in Baltimore to create the BRIDGES for Overdose Prevention Sites. Rajani is also a facilitator with Baltimore Racial Justice Action (BRJA) and co-founder of Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity (BARS). She earned her master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2011.
Ricky Morris | outreach manager
Ricky Morris joined BHRC in December 2018. Since 2016, he has served as a harm reduction specialist with Bmore POWER, providing street outreach, grassroots education, and training in overdose prevention and response. A spokesperson for harm reduction approaches to drug use, Ricky works to reduce stigma and promote equality and self-worth. Since 2014, he has provided harm reduction training and education to dozens of community residents, people in recovery, social workers, nursing students, and other medical professionals.
Samantha Kerr | outreach manager + harm reduction educator
Sam Kerr joined BHRC in December 2018. A member of Bmore POWER since 2016, Sam has provided administrative support, social media oversight, overdose education services, and served as a spokesperson for the harm reduction-based peer network. Sam is a member of NarcoFeminism and the national drug users union.
Tricia Christensen | policy manager
Tricia joined BHRC as a volunteer in 2016 and served as policy committee chair and board member before transitioning into a staff position. She has been promoting harm reduction policy for more than a decade, beginning with reproductive health advocacy on her undergraduate college campus. Tricia previously served as legislative staff in the Maryland General Assembly and earned her master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition staff and advisory board members have a commitment to a justice analysis (racial equity, in particular) as well as a commitment to harm reduction. BHRC is committed to being guided by a group of people with a broad range of experiences–more than half of whom have experience being targeted by the war on drugs and anti-sex worker policies.
List of Current Members:
Gassoh, Gerardo, Laura, Meredith, Roland
About the BHRC Advisory Board:
The BHRC Advisory Board gathers every other month to advise on the current effectiveness of BHRC’s work, set priorities for upcoming opportunities, and advise on the expansion of harm reduction community mobilization in Baltimore and around the state.
Advisory Board members are eligible for stipends to compensate them for their time and travel. Priority for receiving stipends will be for people directly impacted by war on drugs and/or anti-sex worker policies. The racial makeup of the Advisory Board is intentional and aims to reflect the racial makeup of Baltimore City.
BHRC review applications twice a year–once in early January and once in early July. Prospective applicants are encouraged to reach out with questions and review the interest form at http://www.tinyurl.com/2019BHRC-AB-App. Interest forms can also be submitted over the phone or in person by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling/texting 410-205-5143 to set up a time.
We value the expertise of people from historically marginalized communities, and encourage people of color, women, trans and non-binary people, and/or SGL, queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual people to apply.
Founded in 2011, then called Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, was primarily comprised of graduate and undergraduate students in health fields. Our founders were not given harm reduction training in school and wanted to bring this perspective to current and future health professionals, forming a community of providers committed to practicing harm reduction in Baltimore. As the organization grew to include more practicing service providers and residents directly impacted by criminalization, we removed “student” from our name.
Today, BHRC represents and partners a varied group of people, including those specifically targeted by anti-drug user and anti-sex worker policies, their loved ones, healthcare and service providers, advocates and organizers, public health workers, researchers, and other community members.
Some notable accomplishments over the years:
2011: After attending a harm reduction conference, a number of students began organizing with their peers and community advisors to form a harm reduction education group in Baltimore.
2012: We established an advisory board of local advocates and national harm reduction leaders, and continued to train hundreds of Baltimore residents in harm reduction concepts and skills.
2013-2014: We hired the first staff member and continued engaging dozens of volunteer-members. Supported multiple street-based outreach and service programs with volunteer time and supplies.
2014: We became the state’s first non-governmental group to provide opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution to potential responders/overdose witnesses. We have since guided other organizations to launch similar programs.
2013-16: We started working on policy advocacy, including Good Samaritan protections for people responding to overdose, Syringe Service Program expansion, and expanded naloxone access to community members. We have continued to go back each year to refine and rework these laws to increase access to services and reduce barriers to needed life-saving measures.
2017-18: With the arrival of new leadership, we expanded from one staff member to three full time staff members and two part time staff members, in addition to a dedicated team of volunteers and collaborators. We also took on coordination of the BRIDGES Coalition to support advocacy for overdose prevention sites. We also initiated the founding of the Maryland Harm Reduction ActionNetwork (MHRAN)–a statewide group that discusses local concerns in order to spread harm reduction across jurisdiction.
2019-present: We expanded our staff further by adding two new part-time staff members and paid internships. Became one of the two community-based syringe service providers authorized by the Maryland Department of Health. We are continuing to organize and advocate for more services grounded in harm reduction, authorization of overdose prevention sites, drug possession decriminalization, and for measures to reduce the criminalization of sex workers and others who have increased law enforcement interactions.
JOIN US! We are always looking for new collaborators, volunteers, and for justice projects to support. Reach out! Come to a monthly educational meeting! Follow us on social media and ask us to follow you!