City collaboration with Makin’ It Happen results in NH’s first-of-its-kind harm reduction strategy

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Above: A slide from the Harm Reduction Strategy presentation: The number of overdose incidents and overdose fatalities is considerably lower than just 4 years ago largely due to the distribution of the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone and other harm reduction efforts. These harm reduction efforts have considerably decreased the number of overdose deaths in our region. It is notable to point out the sharp increase in overdose activity and fatality rates since the onset of COVID-19 in March of 2020. The stay-at-home order in NH inadvertently caused the isolation of PWID and limited access to naloxone. SOURCE: American Medical Response data for Manchester NH.

MANCHESTER, NH – Makin’ It Happen (MIH) and the City of Manchester on Thursday announced the launch of the City’s comprehensive harm reduction strategy.

Funded by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief & Recovery with distribution support from Health Strategies of NH/Endowment for Health, this comprehensive harm reduction strategy looks at existing and potential services that can be provided for the community’s most vulnerable populations.

“Although there is no singular definition, harm reduction is prospective risk reduction efforts through programs, policies, and practices,” said Brian Mooney, Community of Care Manager, Makin’ It Happen. “Things like sunscreen, seatbelts, speed limits, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are all forms of harm reduction.”

The harm reduction strategy developed by MIH in partnership with the City outlines strategies designed to serve individuals as well as the larger community, with an overarching goal to move people struggling with a substance use disorder towards treatment and recovery.

“This harm reduction strategy will serve as a guide and strengthen our efforts to build a resilient and sustainable continuum of care model for the city and region,” said Mary Forsythe-Taber, Executive Director, Makin’ It Happen

“To effectively address all facets of substance use disorders, we must employ strategies of prevention at every point on the public health spectrum – primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. A formal harm-reduction strategy ensures that our community is addressing risk, taking action to minimize harm and prevent fatal overdoses as a key component of secondary prevention,” added Anna Thomas, Public Health Director, City of Manchester Health Department. “This call to action should challenge all communities to develop their own harm-reduction strategies in partnership with their residents and resources. Our collective efforts should not only benefit the individuals we serve, but our full communities as well. In the coming months, the City of Manchester will be launching new initiatives toward this end.”

“I’m grateful for the collaboration between the City of Manchester and Makin’ It Happen to develop the first comprehensive harm reduction strategy in the State of New Hampshire,” said Mayor Joyce Craig. “Through this comprehensive approach, we are working to improve overall community wellness and save lives.”

In addition to new initiatives, the City, and its partners will continue to practice existing components of harm reduction, including:

  • Connecting people to primary care and mental health services
  • Giving individuals access to Naloxone (Narcan) and training to prevent overdose fatality
  • Offering screening and vaccinations for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Helping people enroll in insurance like Medicaid; giving them access to medical treatment
  • Referrals to substance use disorder treatment and recovery support
  • Public awareness and education to engage, educate and empower the public

The City’s harm reduction strategy can be reviewed below.

About Makin’ It Happen
Makin’ It Happen (MIH) is a community-based Public Health non-profit working in partnership with the City of Manchester and surrounding communities supporting the NH Regional Public Health Network, bringing primary prevention around Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs (ATOD), and coordination/facilitation of the regions Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Continuum of Care (prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery). MIH’s mission is rooted in the belief that physical and behavioral health are essential, prevention works, treatment is effective, and recovery is possible!