Harm Reduction in New Jersey

DPA is working to reduce the harms associated with drug use and ineffective drug policies in New Jersey. Since 2003, we have successfully advocated for policies to prevent opioid overdose and expand access to life-saving sterile syringes that protect against HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases.

Our current priorities include expanding access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, supporting the growth of the syringe access programs in New Jersey, and preventing the spread of Hepatitis C.

Join us to support our harm reduction campaigns in New Jersey.

Overdose Prevention

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death nationally and in New Jersey. Many of these deaths are preventable and DPA works to promote policies that will help save lives.

In 2011, DPA launched our Overdose Prevention Campaign in New Jersey and led a coalition to pass the Overdose Prevention Act. The law encourages overdose witnesses to call 911 by providing Good Samaritan legal protections to overdose victims and witnesses.

The law also allows access to naloxone for anyone who may be in a position to assist in an overdose emergency and provides legal protections for laypeople who administer naloxone. People are rarely alone when they overdose, and providing naloxone access to individuals who use drugs and to their family and friends is a critical public health approach to preventing overdose deaths.

Most recently, DPA successfully advocated for legislation (Senate Bill 295 / Assembly Bill 2334) that will further expand access to naloxone by making the life-saving medication available without a prescription. Prior to the passage of this legislation, individuals were able to access naloxone by obtaining a prescription for naloxone from a personal physician, without a prescription at larger pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, or for free through one of the community distribution programs in the state.

Although larger pharmacies were already able to offer naloxone to individuals without a prescription, this was not a statewide policy. The recently passed legislation will allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription under a standing order from the Department of Health.

Thousands of lives have already been saved because of New Jersey’s expanded access to naloxone, and this new legislation will go a long way to preventing more deaths in New Jersey.

“Instead of helping to save a life by seeking emergency medical services, my son was left alone to die, without the help he needed and deserved. I lost my son, and my grandson lost his Daddy, because someone was afraid to call 911.”  - Patty DiRenzo

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Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey

DPA advocates for expanding access to sterile syringes. Such access is critical to reducing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases and can often be a matter of life and death.

In 2006, DPA led a campaign to pass the Blood-Borne Disease Harm Reduction Act, which allowed for the establishment of pilot syringe access programs (SAPs) in New Jersey.  Programs were originally established in Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark and Paterson and have been a resounding success.  

Reports from the New Jersey Department of Health published under both the Corzine and Christie administrations have praised their effectiveness.  According to the reports and follow-up statistics:

  • The programs have enrolled more than 10,000 participants.
  • About 25% of participants have successfully entered drug treatment.
  • Thousands of participants have been tested for HIV and hepatitis C and referred for treatment.
  • Thousands have been referred to other medical and social services.
  • There has been no associated increase in crime or improperly discarded syringes.
  • Scores of clients have been trained in overdose prevention and provided with the opioid antidote naloxone through newly established overdose prevention services.

“Some people say that syringe access ‘sends the wrong message.’ The message that was sent to me was that my father’s life didn’t matter – that no one cared.” - Michele

Read more Stories from the Movement from people who have lost loved ones due to AIDS.

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Hepatitis C Action Campaign

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that can destroy people’s health and lives. Liver disease, liver cancer and deaths from hepatitis C are on the rise in New Jersey and across the country. Between 3 and 4 million people in the United States have hepatitis C. More than 150,000 people are infected in New Jersey alone.

Because hepatitis C often has no symptoms, people can go for decades without discovering they have it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for hepatitis C. Three quarters of the people with hepatitis C are in this age group.  African Americans and veterans in this age group have substantially higher rates of hepatitis C infection.

DPA is currently leading a coalition to pass legislation (Senate Bill 483 / Assembly Bill A3831) that would require hospitals and health care professionals to offer hepatitis C testing to people in this age group. This will effectively focus the fight on those who are at greatest risk. The bill will also expand rapid hepatitis C testing making it easier and faster for people to be tested and get their test results.

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