Why do we need harm reduction in North Carolina?
Many people in North Carolina cannot get treatment for drug dependence, and many health programs and services refuse to help people who use drugs. As a result, people who use drugs are denied access to help for other health problems, including HIV/AIDS and mental illnesses.
While Medicaid in North Carolina covers some drug dependence treatment, eligibility is very limited. In North Carolina, non-elderly, non- disabled adults without children are categorically excluded from Medicaid coverage. For working parents and their children to be eligible for Medicaid, annual family income must be no more than 49 percent of the federal poverty level, or $8,971.90 for a family a three. This leaves many people in North Carolina, where one in six residents live below the federal poverty level, without access to drug treatment.
Many drug users face multiple, concurrent health problems, including drug dependence, mental illnesses, and HIV, but mental health facilities often refuse to accept drug dependent or uninsured patients. By refusing to accept patients with limited resources or complicated diagnoses, many treatment facilities exclude those most in need of comprehensive, coordinated care. With restrictive Medicaid policies and treatment centers turning away the uninsured and patients with concurrent conditions, many North Carolinians are being denied access to affordable, evidence-based treatment.
Drug dependence treatment presents a window of opportunity for drug users with a high potential for relapse to learn about harm reduction practices in order to reduce the risks of acquiring blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections. Yet research indicates many drug treatment facilities fail to educate drug users about the importance of sterile syringes and equipment.
Drug overdose deaths in the United States have increased fivefold since 1990, claiming the lives of 27,658 Americans in 2007. After motor vehicle accidents, drug overdose is the second leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2009, there were approximately 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in North Carolina, and nearly one-half occurred in people under the age of 40.
Harm reduction programs can help to prevent overdose fatalities by conducting education with drug users on risk factors for overdose, signs of an overdose, and how to respond to save a victim. Many harm reduction programs also help drug users gain access to naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of an opioid overdose. By training drug users to resuscitate overdose victims and administer naloxone, harm reduction programs can dramatically reduce deaths from overdose.
This information is from the Human Rights Watch’s article: ”We Know What to Do, Harm Reduction and Human Rights in North Carolina,” with permission by Human Rights Watch.
Responding to Drug Overdoses
This section is Brochures reproduced with permission from the Harm Reduction Coalition
To respond to drug overdoses we recommend the following:
When someone is overdosing... Remember to S.C.A.R.E. M.E.