FSDP and Our Global Partners Bring a New Paradigm of Family Drug Support to the United States

Our heartfelt presence at The International Harm Reduction Conference #HR17 in May 2017 was a springboard for a dynamic and thought provoking weekend: A celebration of family empowerment that filled attendees with enthusiasm and hope, while offering enlightened strategies, tools, and opportunities for advocacy.

Day 1: Workshop on Peer-Led Family Support Model18664623_1720713967945235_3219150813966158127_n

The two-part weekend that followed was an expansion of our global partnership including Liz Evans and Mark Townsend (not pictured) of New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE) and Washington Heights Corner Project which featured a workshop introducing Tony Trimingham’s Family Drug Support (FDS) model (in center at right with Barry Lessin and me) and an international panel discussing the life-saving value of Supervised Injecting Facilities (SIFs).

Our families have a vital role in the development and resolution of how substance use impacts their home—for far too long our families have not been afforded the opportunity to engage as active participants and problem-solvers. The weekend offered a new paradigm of support for families impacted by substance use.

18581706_10102491791666402_8890817018380267324_n-3The weekend events, highly lauded by a passionate gathering of family members and clinicians, were a milestone for FSDP, allowing us to offer our vision of tangible support for families, based on what families need, expect and experience. This model of support helps families better understand and strengthen the connection between ourselves and loved ones who use substances. The peer-led support groups present viable alternatives for families to explore potential solutions and coping strategies.

Day 2: International Panel about a Public Health Response Proven to Save Lives: Supervised Injection Sites (SIFs)

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We were delighted to have CNN political commentator Symone Sanders (at right, between Liz and Tony) emcee the gathering at the Malcom X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center in Harlem. It was a moving interactive presentation before a diverse and engaged audience. The featured presentations were delivered by harm reduction pioneers Tony and Liz, who poignantly shared their own personal stories reflecting the inspiration that led them to do their groundbreaking work that included establishing successful SIFS in Sydney and Vancouver, respectively.

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Evidence from years of research is conclusive that SIFs reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission risks, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections, reduce discarded syringes, and increase the number of people who enter drug treatment. Across the globe, there have been no reported fatalities from an overdose in an SIF.

Personal Relevance

My own personal journey as a parent and healthcare advocate was inspired by the compelling and relatable perspectives shared during the presentations, as I too am a mother who is devastated by the recent loss of my precious son and student of the world, Bryan.

Bryan’s life parallels many young lives who, despite a loving relationship with a beautiful new wife, a supportive family in his corner and an amazing circle of friends who believed that laughter was the best medicine, his valiant attempts with sustainable periods of time in and around “recovery” were ultimately circumvented by much of what does not work about a ‘one size fits all’ model. Far too many young lives are tragically being lost to an accidental and fatal overdose that is preventable!  

My own perspectives and belief system came full circle from the early days when our families were first indoctrinated to the mantra of the addiction professionals champing for ‘hitting bottom’ and ‘detaching with love’ as the remedy. Despite a decade-plus of extensive and ongoing attempts by my own family to embrace the recommendations of the traditional treatment industry, our personal situation continued to implode on a downward spiral of pricey interventions, therapeutic wilderness programs, and exorbitant rehabs that over promised and under delivered.

Myths like encouraging us to use the criminal justice system, or advising us that advocating for our child’s well-being essentially reduces us to ‘enablers’ and ‘codependents’, only exacerbated the family issues and compromised health rather than supported it. If only we had the opportunity to turn our focus to empowerment and safeguard our loved ones with viable medical models during those times that they were in active addiction. Many people with problematic substance use have little or no access to evidenced-based care, or simply were not ready or able to embrace a path that was limited to abstinence-based recovery.

Our families deserve person-centered screenings and alternative solutions that meet them where they are with the goal of optimal health and wellness based on individual needs and unique circumstance.

Stay tuned to learn about more of our upcoming events as our momentum moves forward towards the Fall, where we will be representing the voice of the family at the 2017 Drug Policy Alliance Reform Conference.

 

Representing the Voice of the Family at the 2017 International Harm Reduction Conference #HR17

C_DNaZxXgAAUhpMRepresenting our family voices in the global harm reduction community, FSDP Co-Founder Barry Lessin and I enthusiastically attended the 2017 International Harm Reduction Conference #HR17 in Montreal, Canada, May 14-17, 2017.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘At the Heart of the Response’ and addressed “innovative harm reduction services, new or groundbreaking research, effective or successful advocacy campaigns and key policy discussions or debates. With delegates from more than 70 countries the programme not only reflects the truly global nature of our movement but also addresses key international issues”

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We had the opportunity to meet with our global partners Australian Family Drug Support (FDS) powerhouse Tony Trimingham (right) and Shaun Shelly (below) to identify the issues that are unique to families and bringing the family voice into our home communities. The inspirational and motivational moments were continued with a dynamic and thought provoking celebration of family empowerment that culminated in New York City May 20-21, 2017 with an extraordinary weekend filled with enlightenment and hope. Barry and I are energized and privileged to bring the FDS model of family support to our cherished friends here in the United States. We remain humbled and honored to serve our growing network of families who are asking for non judgmental alternatives to support optimal health and well being for their loved ones impacted by substance use while managing their own needs and self care in the process.

FSDP AC_9Zk_UUwAAB1qWdvisory Board member Shaun Shelly (whom we got to meet in person for the first time!) explaining the challenges and successes in his groundbreaking work in harm reduction service delivery to his native South Africa.

One of the highlights of #HR17 for many of the attendees was the dynamic presentation given by Andrew Tatarsky (right) on “The Scientific Revolution of Addiction Treatment”, exploring how his model os Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy 18558570_1716762775007021_2210259828598535816_o(IHRP) can enhance harm reduction services and make addiction/substance misuse treatment relevant to the majority of problematic drug users who have been turned off or hurt by traditional abstinence-only treatment.

18527769_1714581398558492_4107739766811187219_nPausing to honor the dedication and commitment of our global partners, appreciating the connection and spirit of compassion shared among cherished friends like Zeeshan Ayyaz Shani, who sadly could not attend because of visa related obstacles. Paying tribute to his courageous advocacy and extraordinary efforts on behalf of drug users in Pakistan through his exemplary work with Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA).

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Barry and Tony discussed the new collaboration of Tony’s Family Drug Support model of family support and FDSP’s commitment to bring strategies and solutions into the homes of our families!. Below, Tony joins me, Deborah Peterson Small, who spoke at a morning plenary on the global priorities of drug policy, and Ernie Drucker, valued mentor to FSDP and author of “A Plague of Prisons”. 
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Stay tuned for more about FSDP’s next steps in our collaboration with Tony’s Family Drug Support to empower families, restore health and save lives…

FSPD brings a Weekend of Family Empowerment to the United States

TFDS NYC Workshphe inspirational and motivational moments shared with internationally acclaimed Family Drug Support founder, Tony Trimingham at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal, Canada #HR17 will continue with a dynamic and thought provoking celebration of family empowerment next week in New York City with an extraordinary weekend filled with enlightenment and hope. 

When: May 20, 2017, 10am to 4pm

Where: Center for Optimal Living, 370 Lexington Ave, Suite 500, New York, NY.

FREE Sign up herehttp://support.bpt.me/

Our families have a vital role in the development and resolution of how substance use impacts their home—for far too long our families have not been afforded the opportunity to engage as active participants and problem-solvers.

We remain humbled and honored to serve our growing network of families who are asking for non judgmental alternatives to support optimal health and well-being for their loved ones impacted by substance use while managing their own needs and self care in the process. Attendees will learn how to become ambassadors for your community by implementing a new paradigm of support for families impacted by substance use by becoming a Family Drug Support meeting facilitator.

The FDS model has enjoyed much success over the last 20 years because it presents viable alternatives for families to explore potential solutions and coping strategies. It introduces reality-based concepts and tools based on what families need, expect and experience.

The concepts are based in harm reduction approaches of meeting families where they are, listening and understanding, changing language, dropping labels, stages of change for drug users and their families. coping with positive changes and challenges, while challenging your triggers and assumptions.

This workshop, co-hosted by FSDP, Family Drug Support, Center for Optimal Living, New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE), and Washington Heights CORNER Project.

We are energized and privileged to bring the FDS model of family support to our cherished friends here in the United States and are busy working behind the scenes in preparation to launch our inaugural family support meeting!

Weekend Part 2

FDS SIF event rev

Last year almost 54,000 lives were lost as a consequence of accidental overdose. Many of these deaths could have been prevented by ensuring that our loved ones had access to a full continuum of care that is rooted in science and compassion. Our families deserve person-centered screenings and alternative solutions that meet them where they are with the goal of optimal health and wellness based on individual needs and unique circumstance

Co-sponsored by FSDP, Family Drug Support, Center for Optimal Living, New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE), Washington Heights CORNER Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Community Insite, join us at a FREE panel including International harm reduction pioneers Tony Trimingham and Liz Evans and others, presenting life-saving alternatives to public injection and overdose from other countries

When: Sunday, May 21, 2017, 11:30am

Where: Malcom X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, 3940 Broadway, at 165th St, NYC

FREE Sign up here: http://opioidresponse.bpt.me

Evidence from years of research is conclusive that Supervised Injection Facilities (#SIFs) reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission risks, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections, reduce discarded syringes, and increase the number of people who enter drug treatment. Across the globe, there have been no reported fatalities from an overdose in an SIF.

A preponderance of evidence also shows that clients of SIFs are more likely to go to detox and quit injection drug use over time. SIFs increase access to lifesaving services and restore some of the humanity and dignity that drug users deserve by offering them a safe place to access medically supervised care and other related services.

“If synthetic opioids are in fact becoming the new norm in terms of distribution and consumption, then drug checking and supervised injection sites ought to become the new public health norms too.” — Rick Lines, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International #HR17.

FSDP embraces enlightened drug policies to empower families, restore health, and save lives..

#FSDPSaysOurFamiliesDeserveSIF’s

 

FSDP at the 2017 International Harm Reduction Conference

Representing the voice of family in the global harm reduction community, FSDP is enthusiastically looking forward to attending the 2017 International Harm Reduction Conference #HR17, May 14-17, 2017 in Montreal, Canada.

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The theme of this year’s conference will be  ‘At the Heart of the Response’ and will address “innovative harm reduction services, new or groundbreaking research, effective or successful advocacy campaigns and key policy discussions or bates. With delegates from more than 70 countries the programme not only reflects the truly global nature of our movement but also addresses key international issues”

The conference will also afford us the opportunity to see old friends, meet new ones, and and forge new relationships to bring more life-saving strategies and approaches to our families.

Check out our blog for our report from the conference!  

Special Evening for Families with Dr. Robert Meyers, Developer of CRAFT

FSDP’s latest collaboration with Dr. Bob Meyers, the developer of Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), and Andrew Tatarsky and his Center for Optimal Living will give attendees a unique opportunity to meet Drs. Meyers and Tatarsky, hear an overview of the CRAFT treatment model and be part of a Q & A to follow.

FAMILY CRAFT

This special evening will be hosted by FSDP Cofounders Carol Katz Beyer and Barry Lessin.

WHEN AND WHERE:

Friday March 10, 2017, 6:30- 8pm.

The Center for Optimal Living, 370 Lexington Ave, Suite 500, NYC 10017

Tickets are still available but space is LIMITED, so SIGN-UP NOW!

For additional information, please email barry@fsdp.org.

CRAFT fosters a different journey toward treatment and recovery for families. It is love-based and empowers families to stay TOGETHER rather than “detaching” or using harsh, punishing methods with loved ones.

Supported by 20 years of peer-reviewed research, CRAFT is a comprehensive behavioral program that teaches families to optimize their impact while avoiding confrontation or detachment. Most programs developed to promote or encourage positive lifestyle changes are not always built upon the level of long-term research and analysis that supports CRAFT as a successful model for engaging substance users toward treatment.

CRAFT methods are evidence-based and provide families with a hopeful, positive, and more effective alternative to addressing substance problems than other intervention programs. CRAFT works to change the loved one’s environment to make a non-substance using lifestyle more rewarding than one focused on using alcohol or other drugs. In the CRAFT model, concerned significant others (CSOs) are the focus of the therapy instead of the substance abuser. Randomized clinical trials have shown CRAFT 3 to 5 time better at engaging resistant substance users than Alanon or the Johnson Institute style.

For more information on CRAFT, click HERE:

WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU THERE!

FSDP Joins Forces with Global Partners for International Family Drug Support Day

FSDP is proud and excited to be partnering with organizations across the globe for International Family Drug Support Day on February 24, 2017!

FDSDayv2The 1st National Family Drug Support Day was held on February 24, 2016 coinciding with the anniversary of the passing of Damien Trimingham–the son of Tony Trimingham, founder of Australia’s Family Drug Support organization–from a drug-related overdose. National Family Drug Support Day was to be an annual event to highlight the need for families impacted by substance us to not only be recognized and heard but to be supported and encouraged to speak about their concerns and their needs.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Family Drug Support, founder Tony Trimingham and FSDP Co-founders Barry Lessin and Carol Katz Beyer are joined by our friends and advocates standing in solidarity with Family Drug Support to raise awareness for the voice of the family to be heard around the world to be represented in the inaugural International Family Drug Support Day.

This year’s theme is #SeeThePersonNotTheDrug

The day is an annual event to highlight the need for families to not only be recognized and heard but to be supported and encouraged to speak about their concerns and their needs. The reality for many families is that there are limited programs and services available and many policies adversely affect families, all too often under a cloud of stigma and shame.

The objectives of the International Day are to:

  • Reduce stigma and discrimination for families and drug users
  • Promote family drug support services for families and friends
  • Promote harm reduction strategies for families and friends

In addition, the following issues will be highlighted:

  • The important role of FDS and FSDP volunteers in providing family support across Australia, the United States and the world.
  • Reducing fatal and non­fatal overdoses from drugs including pharmaceuticals.
  • Promoting the widespread availability of naloxone.
  • Promote greater inclusion of family members in the decision making process for families experiencing problematic drug use.
  • Promoting greater support and resources for treatment services.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Give a donation to help with the pamphlets, posters and badges being produced for the Day.
  • Share a photo and a story of 200 words or less of describing your loved one and we will post it on our Family Wall. Your message can be a remembrance of a loved one who has passed, a tribute to a family member’s recovery or a message of encouragement with helpful coping skills to maintain a healthy family relationship. Email us with your photos and stories and any questions you have to          Carol@fsdp.org or Barry@fsdp.org
  • Be an ambassador for change in your neighborhood by raising awareness within your community! Request to meet with your local schools, doctors, political representatives, law enforcement and clergy and we will provide you with a tool kit and promotional materials to support you in your advocacy. Talking points for communicating with the public are here.
  • Write or call your local state and federal legislators. To locate your US representative click here. Talking points for communicating with the legislators are here.
  • Invite friends, family or coworkers to share an informal gathering over food or coffee to share discussion and voice the issues.
  • Promote the Day on social media: #SeeThePersonNotTheDrug.

We welcome and encourage creative possibilities and opportunities to help you promote/plan your special event: town hall meetings, symposiums, themed collaborations with stakeholders and friends…contact us and let’s talk!

Please email us with your plans and ideas:  Carol@fsdp.org or Barry@fsdp.org

We look forward to make this event most memorable–with your help and support our loved ones will be free of shame and stigma and seen for who they are!

#SeeThePersonNotTheDrug

FSDP Brings the Voice of our Families to Aspiring Medical Professionals

IMG_1960One of FSDP’s missions is to bring the family voice to the various segments of our society that directly impact our health. So I was excited to be joined by FSDP members Brooke Feldman and Kenneth Anderson, as well as Fred Goldstein, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) to share our perspectives on a panel discussion for medical students, “The Culture and Misperceptions of Addiction”, held at PCOM on Thursday, January 5, 2017.

The panel allowed us to reach healthcare providers at the beginning of their careers with a message about harm reduction, drug policy reform, progressive treatment and recovery, and substance use as public health and human rights issues. IMG_7851The audience of medical students were actively engaged and their questions prompted discussion about the nature of addiction, co-morbidity (dual diagnosis), engaging people in treatment, stigma, policy, epidemiology of substance use, impediments to effective care, conflicts of doctors…

Ken Anderson, founder of Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support (HAMS) shared his expertise about the epidemiology and myths of substance use, addictIMG_7845ion, and recovery. Recovery advocate Brooke Feldman shared her unique perspectives on the lived experience of substance users, stigma, and the unique paths taken by people in recovery. I addressed some of the issues around the influences of culture and policy on substance users and families, and strategies for engaging young people and families in treatment.IMG_7846

Many thanks to our gracious hosts at PCOM, especially Maggie Gergen for coordinating the event, and FSDP Harm Reduction Epidemiologist April Wilson Smith for developing this event, and Co-Founder Carol Katz Beyer for her guidance.

FSDP to Address Aspiring Medical Professionals in Philadelphia, PA

14731154_10154153120499195_2687285408442853763_n - Version 2Families for Sensible Drug Policy (FSDP) Co-Founder Barry Lessin and FSDP members Brooke Feldman and Kenneth Anderson will be on a panel to discuss “The Culture and Misperceptions of Addiction” with medical students at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Thursday, January 5, 2017, 5:30 to 7:30pm this Thursday.   This is an amazing opportunity to reach healthcare providers at the beginning of their careers with a message about harm reduction and compassionate, evidence-based care for substance use problems.  

Said Barry, “I spent most of my career as an abstinence-only, one-size-fits-all psychologist until I became aware of the War on Drugs five years ago and began viewing drug use and people who use them through a human rights and public health lens. I realize now that using this model was doing more harm than good by reinforcing stigma and shame by blaming my clients for the lack of success in treatment. I now embrace a harm reduction, client-centric approach and feel it’s important to share my harm reduction knowledge and experience with people who will have an important impact in providing care.”

Brooke Feldman, an outspoken recovery advocate and Huffington Post columnist [link], as well as FSDP member, said, “It is imperative that all medical professionals understand substance use and its related impact on whole health and wellness.  Only through truly understanding the delicate interplay between mental and physical health, including alcohol and other drug use, medical professionals can be best positioned to practice the holistic, integrated care that is the future of quality healthcare in this country.”

Kenneth Anderson, Executive Director and Founder of Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support (HAMS) and long time FSDP member, broke down the myths and facts he plans to address at the session:

Myths and facts about substance use disorders

Myth: Everyone with an addiction dies from it unless they get addiction treatment.

Fact: 90% of people with alcohol dependence recover whether they get treatment or not. For drug dependence the rates are even higher; 98-99%.

Myth: Lifetime abstinence from all mood altering substances except caffeine and nicotine is necessary for recovery from addiction. 

Fact: Half of all people with alcohol dependence recover via controlled drinking. Marijuana is frequently an exit drug from more harmful substances.

Myth: Addiction treatment is effective.

Fact: Most treatment centers do not use evidence based treatment even if they claim to do so for the sake of collecting insurance payments. The odds of dying of heroin overdose after graduating from a 28 day inpatient program are 3,000% higher than if one continues to use heroin with no treatment.

Myth: Patients must be confronted and forced against their will into AA because they are in denial and only the 12 step program is effective.

Fact: The more people are confronted the more they will drink. Actually listening to what the client wants is the most effective approach here as it is everywhere else. Although some people benefit from the AA fellowship, others, including myself, are greatly harmed by it. I nearly drank myself to death before I left AA.

FSDP continues to be the voice of families affected by the cruel and ineffective drug war, everywhere from the meetings where policy is made to the institutions where new healthcare professionals are trained.  Stay tuned for an update after the event!  

 

FSDP at the Southern Opioid Epidemic Symposium

FSDP’s Co-Founders Barry Lessin and Carol Katz Beyer, and our Harm Reduction Coordinator Jeremy Galloway represented us at the Southern Opioid Epidemic Symposium held at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health this past week.

The symposium convened academic, medical, research, policy, and government stakeholders to identify and develop strategies to advance a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic in the South and beyond.

Barry Lessin was invited to speak, and here’s the text of of his talk “The Significance of the Family in Developing Harm Reduction Strategies and Practices in the Southeast and Beyond:

15541250_1393299694023257_4760824146094682188_n“I’m an aging hippie from the VietNam war protest days when I came of age, during the drugs, sex, and rock and roll era and as a result developed an ingrained distrust of the federal government.

When FSDP was invited to join the Southern Collaborative on Opioid Harm Reduction , my initial thought was ‘Oh my God, I’m going to meet with the government to talk about drug use. I hope they don’t ask me too many questions about my past’. My worry and disbelief quickly dissolved when we got to the meeting and saw how serious the government is about attacking the opioid problem with comprehensive harm reduction …

We’re again a very divided nation, even more so in some ways, but I have optimism because of our ability to convene forums like this to tap into the brilliant minds gathered here to identify life-saving solutions to this public health epidemic.

So being here is an exciting and encouraging moment for myself, co-founder Carol Beyer, Jeremy Galloway and the 1000s of families and diverse stakeholders we represent because it’s an opportunity to be a part of process of an ongoing collaboration with this esteemed community to address the needs of the millions of families who have suffered the direct consequences and collateral damage of substance use and the existing harmful drug policies.

FSDP is a global coalition of families, professionals, organizations and drug policy reform advocates who view substance use through a human rights and public health lens. Viewed this way, Harm reduction interventions, are a natural fit for managing substance use, but have rarely found their way into family settings.

We have listened to our families, parents and users alike, sharing their lived experiences of being harmed by a broken treatment system that uses ineffective, often unregulated treatment methods, that treat people more like commodities to fill beds than patients being provided effective care.

When people relapse with other complex problems similar to addiction that require lifestyle changes like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, we don’t blame the person for treatment failures, we don’t tell them they’re in denial, or they ‘need to ready’ or they must ‘hit bottom, we don’t throw them in jail, or kick them out of schools.

With other conditions, we respond with scientific, commonsense, and compassionate approaches and we look at the treatment methods that are failing them and do more research to provide better treatments.

Families are in a unique position to directly influence the development or resolution of substance use problems because substance use doesn’t take place in a vacuum but in the normal context of family life and relationships as well as the wider culture that the family resides in.

We know that problematic substance use is a complex interaction of psychological, biological and socio-cultural variables. Prohibition-based drug policies directly contribute to a cultural narrative that views the substance as the primary problem, ignoring the uniqueness of each family, the culture it exists in, as well as the family’s strengths and resources.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel–harm reduction approaches are already in place for other conditions. We can use this knowledge to extend these benefits to implement family-friendly strategies and practices in combatting the opioid problem.

FSDP bring diverse communities together to embrace enlightened drug policies—empowering families, restoring health, saving lives. We are dedicated to identify a vision and approach that will provide solutions and pathways forward…

Our meeting here offers us an opportunity for us to engage with the communities brought together here who share the public health lens of substance use, to be catalysts for change by tapping into your knowledge as scientists, educators, and healthcare providers to eventually develop the necessary strategies and practices and the hands-on tools to offer our families to restore our health to the level we deserve.”

Families for Sensible Drug Policy (FSDP) Team Reflects on the 11th National Harm Reduction Conference

IMG_2911In early November, Team FSDP went to San Diego to represent the voice of families affected  by the Drug War at the 11th National Harm Reduction Conference. The conference is a gathering of over 1,200 activists, treatment professionals and policy makers working to reduce the harms of substance use. We gave poster presentations, spoke on panels, and staffed a very busy table in the Exhibition Hall.

It seemed like everywhere we went, people sought us out for our perspective on the latest in policy, treatment, and activism. It was clear to me that we are respected as the organization that represents families fighting for change.

Some reflections from our team:

“My life was enriched by attending the HRC conference. I encountered so many dedicated professionals in the field. The movement has grown since I got involved with the organization to a level that will make harm reduction standard for drug treatment.” – Beth Herman, FSDP Nurse Advocate

“My experience at the HR Conference gave me great hope that intelligent, hard working and insightful people are working to bring science, empathy, compassion and proven results to the Harm Reduction movements. After my experience in prison, I was not hopeful that there were efforts at work to lessen the harms caused by incarceration on people that use substances. After meeting people like FSDP’s Corrections Health Advocate Julie Apperson I now can see that there are many intelligent hard working people, both inside and outside the system, trying to lessen the harms of incarceration.” – Dale Schafer, FSDP Legal Advocate and Sentencing Reform Specialist

“The HRC conference was an affirmation for me that a society grappling with complex challenges can still find compassion, innovation and humanity under one roof.”– Carol Katz Beyer, FSDP Co-founder and Vice President

“Being at the HR conference is like a homecoming for me. It’s where I got a new lease on my professional career as a harm reduction psychologist and where I can re-connect with a supportive community and learn about the latest developments in the public health and harm reduction world.” – Barry Lessin, FSDP Co-founder and President

I personally found it to be a life-changing event. I’ve never felt so surrounded by unconditional love, and so united in purpose with hundreds of people I’ve never met. I wrote more about the opening panel here.

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In the day to day struggles we all face as we try to fight against the cruel and deadly Drug War, it’s easy to feel alone and powerless. Being a part of Team FSDP at the Harm Reduction Conference made me realize that we are never alone – we are surrounded by friends worldwide who know exactly what we are going through and support us every step of the way. Together, as FSDP, we make our voice heard!