NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
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East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

East Phillips Needs Harm Reduction Solutions for the Drug Problem

By Stephen Gregg In the eight years I’ve owned my home near 26th St and Bloomington Ave, I have been stuck by a discarded syringe, seen multiple overdoses, two deaths, and countless ambulances and police vehicles. I have watched in horror as entwined problems increase: the number of people experiencing homelessness, open air drug use, and crime. When approaching neighborhood issues, I try to practice empathy. From the beginning I’ve wanted to be involved in the work to find solutions, attending countless neighborhood meetings of all sorts. The problems here are deep-rooted and complex. I’m not a social worker–actually I’m an agricultural plant scientist. So I also comb research for solutions to problems. And this search has pointed me strongly towards harm reduction practices and services, practices endorsed by the CDC. Harm reduction has the potential to reduce short term harms while creating space for long lasting change. The city is already funding harm reduction services, such as the work of Southside Harm Reduction, who do street outreach and provide needle exchange. According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition website, harm reduction principles are a set of practical strategies to reduce the consequences of drug use, based on a belief in rights for people who use drugs. Some of these include: acknowledging the realities of intersectional causes of drug use; ensuring that people who use drugs have a voice in the creation of solutions; NOT minimizing or ignoring the real harms and dangers caused by illicit drug use; and creating non-coercive and non-judgmental services. At this point, I can hear countless neighbors in meetings saying, “We don’t want to enable drug users.” And without much support from the city, the primary tactic that comes up is for neighbors to move people experiencing homelessness off a given block, inevitably resulting in them moving to another nearby. This is all neighbors feel they can do, but it makes the [...]

Naloxone Shortage: What’s Happening and What YOU Need to Know

Naloxone Shortage: What’s Happening and What YOU Need to Know

By TINA MONJE Despite spiking overdose deaths, the nation's grassroots harm reduction organizations were notified this spring that Pfizer, their primary supplier of affordable, single-dose injectable naloxone (i.e. Narcan), would temporarily halt production. Pfizer has declined to provide information with major news sources, except that this halt has nothing to do with COVID-19 vaccines, and that production will resume in February. SHRS Linkage to Care Coordinator Marissa Bonnie implementing a community naloxone station in South Minneapolis. Photo by Emily Shippee Of the many naloxone producers, Pfizer is the only one who sells the product at an affordable rate. In 2012, the company entered into an agreement with a nation-wide buyers club consisting of community harm reduction organizations in an effort to get the opioid overdose reversal drug into the hands of those most likely to respond to overdose - people who use drugs (PWUD). Minneapolis-based Southside Harm Reduction Services (SHRS) is one of the many buyers club members who rely on Pfizer's accessibility. Of the syringe services programs (SSPs) in Minnesota, SHRS purchases and distributes the largest quantity. SHRS Founder and Executive Director Jack Martin reports that, between June 2020 and 2021 alone, they distributed at least 80,000 doses to PWUD either directly, or through other SSPs, organizations, and individuals. While naloxone is theoretically abundant, a single dose from other producers can run about $20 each, an infeasible price for PWUD, and for the underfunded or underground entities who serve them. "There's enough naloxone in the world," says Martin." We don't need to be in a situation where we're having to deny people naloxone." Martin suggests that other pharmaceutical companies either cannot or simply will not offer it at competitive prices. For now, SHRS is relying on donations from other generous organizations. This avoidable crisis comes during a time when PWUD need [...]

We Are Not Trash, Stop Sweeping Us!

We Are Not Trash, Stop Sweeping Us!

By SOUTHSIDE HARM REDUCTION SERVICES This last month the Minneapolis Police evicted another encampment of people experiencing houselessness in East Phillips. This is the third time in the past few months that this group has been moved. This eviction was especially violent. About 40 police arrived to forcibly evict roughly 30 residents with no place for residents to move. The police barricaded the area surrounding the camp and forced almost all the community outreach workers out of the camp, searching for people with active warrants and telling residents they had 5 minutes to pack everything and leave. During this eviction, a resident of the encampment experienced an overdose. The police (all of whom are supposed to be carrying naloxone) did not respond. Instead, they continued to stand around and force people to leave the encampment. Fortunately, a fellow resident responded to the emergency by administering naloxone, and the person experiencing the overdose survived, exclusively because of this community response.  These evictions are violent, and they cause immediate and long-term health crises. They prevent people from making progress in finding housing and in achieving health goals. They cause people to lose their tents, identification documents, personal belongings, medication, harm reduction supplies, and naloxone. They also cause disruption of important relationships with friends and family, as well as healthcare and social service providers. These connections are as valuable to people”™s health as physical supplies. As one resident put it, “Every time we are evicted, we start back at square 1, we could be at square 450 and then immediately back to square 1.”  Encampment evictions are happening in the midst of multiple outbreaks, including HIV, Hep A, and alongside record high numbers of overdose deaths. These evictions and health crises disproportionately affect Indigenous people and people of color, and we cannot [...]

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