2022 Southern Syringe Services Programs and Drug User Health Institute


The 2022 Southern Syringe Services Program (SSP) Institute was held on the afternoons of Wednesday, February 23rd and Thursday, February 24th and brought together health department staff, community-based groups, content experts, national stakeholders, and state and local service providers who work on issues related to the drug use/overdose crisis and reducing associated harms in their respective jurisdictions and communities. In this time, we discussed challenges, successes, and priorities for creating and sustaining effective programs for, and creating relationships with, people who use drugs through innovative partnerships and collaborations. 

Please find the recordings for the sessions below. Feel free to reach out to DrugUserHealthTA@nastad.org with any questions or to request TA. 

Day 1 - Wednesday, February 23 

Opening Panel

Harm Reduction in the South: Creativity, Innovation, and Resiliency in the Region

Co-Moderators: Mark Lockwood, NASTAD & Abiel Gebrehiwot, NASTAD 

Presenters: Robin Pollini, West Virginia University; Morgan Farrington, GoodWorks North Alabama Harm Reduction; Jessica Blanchard, 229 Safer Living Access; Thalia Nakouzi, Louisiana Department of Health 

Regional cultural values of resiliency, community innovation, and individual rights have facilitated uptake of harm reduction-based programs in various settings within the American South. Southern harm reduction programs are strongly influenced by the environments, traditions, power structures, and resources in their communities; learning to effectively respond to and leverage these influences can encourage development of unique programs that support participants in creative and innovative ways. This session will highlight current strategies and perspectives from programs across the South, providing insight into how programs develop innovative service delivery amid the many barriers faced against them. Participants will hear the perspectives and recommendations from active SSPs and other harm reduction efforts in the South. Please view the recording here

Breakout Session

Equity in Treatment Access: Ensuring PWUD Receive the Care They Deserve   

Moderator: Amanda Muller, NASTAD  

Presenters: Ryan Kelly, University of Minnesota; Jasmine West, NASTAD; Samantha Euraque, Louisiana Department of Health; Jakiera Stewart, WeCareTN 

Even as access to SSPs, viral hepatitis treatment, HIV care and prevention, and medication-assisted treatment grows through increased funding and capacity building, provider stigma and discrimination severely restrict access to competent and humanizing healthcare for people who use drugs, those engaged in sex work, and other marginalized communities. Panelists will discuss strategies for meaningfully expanding care access for these populations and how individuals can best advocate for themselves when interacting with medical and social service providers and staff. Please view the recording here

  • Download the Improving the Lives of People Who Use Drugs presentation slides here.
  • Download the Linkage to Treatment Program Overview presentation slides here.

Breakout Session

Sex, Drugs, and Autonomy: Approaches to Sexual and Reproductive Health in Harm Reduction  

Co-Moderators: Kirsten Forseth, NASTAD & Sharday Lewis, NASTAD 

Presenters: Libby Harrison, Indiana Department of Health (Formerly); Jesse Mesenburg, Baltimore City Health Department; Tamika Jackson, National Harm Reduction Coalition; Joe Solomon, SOAR WV and Katie Quinonez, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia 

This session will explore the intersection of drug user health, sexual health, and reproductive justice. Panelists will share considerations for responding to the sexual health needs of people who use drugs and examples of the integration of sexual health services into harm reduction settings, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) access, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, and abortion access. Discussion will highlight the shared values of self-determination and bodily autonomy within the harm reduction and reproductive justice movements. Please view the recording here

Closing Panel

Seats at the Table: Creating Meaningful Partnerships with PWUD  

Moderators: Billy Golden, NASTAD & Maya Doe-Simkins, Remedy Alliance 

Presenters: Molly True, Advocate for Change; Tasha Turner-Bicknell, University of Cincinnati

People with the lived experience of substance use, sex work, and homelessness are regularly stereotyped and face stigma, yet have a lot to teach about the needs and effective solutions to the widespread problems we collectively face. This session will explore how SSPs in the South create continuous workforce opportunities for people who use drugs as well as safer work environments for the participants they serve. Please view the recording here.

Day 2 - Thursday, February 24 

Opening Panel

Navigating the Harm Reduction Landscape: Funding Diversity and Sustainability for SSPs  

Moderator: Alison Gaye, NASTAD  

Presenters: Christine Rodriguez, AIDS United; Zach Ford, VOCAL-NY; Tim Santamour, Florida Harm Reduction Collective; Tyler Bartholomew, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine 

There are hundreds of harm reduction programs across the country, but many of them are faced with limited resources and infrastructures. This session will provide an overview of the current federal and non-profit funding landscape for Syringe Services Programs and assist participants in navigating the harm reduction funding landscape. Panelists will discuss creative collaborations across the South, braided funding models, and innovative ways in leveraging diverse funding streams. Please view the recording here

Breakout Session

Program Planning and Implementation: Guidance from a Southern Health Department  

Moderator: Amanda Muller, NASTAD  

Presenters: Amy Patel, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; Sally Bouse, Oklahoma Department of Health; Alison Wilhelm, Tennessee Department of Health 

With increased federal attention to the drug use and overdose crisis it is becoming increasingly common for Health Departments to be tasked with creating, strengthening, and supporting Syringe Services Programs. This panel explores the role of Health Departments, the need for partnerships with community-based groups, and coordinated planning and implementation of SSPs and Drug User Health programs. Please view the recording here

Breakout Session

Advancing Racial Equity and Justice: Considerations for Harm Reduction Programs  

Co-Moderators: Elika Upadhyay, NASTAD & Mark Lockwood, NASTAD 

Presenters: Regina Musa, UNC Injury Prevention Research Center; Teresa Springer, Wellness AIDS Services; Rachel Cabugao, San Francisco Department of Health; Takeisha Nunez, UK Health 

Harm reduction has always existed at the intersection of human rights movements, ranging from sex work decriminalization to reproductive justice to racial justice. Despite the burden of both the HIV and overdose epidemics falling on communities of color, large harm reduction organizations and SSPs have been historically white-led. This session will address the need to make space across the South to talk about the engagement and leadership of BIPOC* communities in SSPs, the intersection of harm reduction with the social justice movements, and ways to make our harm reduction offerings more inclusive and BIPOC-centered. Please view the recording here

*The term BIPOC was developed to prioritize Black and Indigenous people when responding to the harms that all people targeted by structural racism face. It is imperfect in both its description and its politics. This is intended for all people who experience racialized oppression as well as indigenous people who do not identify as a person of color. 

Closing Panel

A Call to Action: Community Grief, Care, and Resistance 

Moderator: Lillie Armstrong, NASTAD  

Presenters: Shawanda Smith, Philadelphia Department of Public Health; Minister Blyth Barnow, Faith in Public Life; Sam Rivera, Washington Heights Corner Project 

Harm reduction is about improving individual well-being, and at the same time, the well-being of communities. Each day, those working in this field deal with significant challenges to individual and communal well-being, such as: burnout and vicarious trauma, grief, the overdoses of friends, family members, and colleagues; the ongoing criminalization of people who use drugs and sell sex; homelessness, incarceration, racism, stigma, harmful policies and, this year, COVID-19. This session will address how SSPs and harm reduction programs across the South actively promote and work towards the establishment of a comprehensive continuum of care for staff and participants to achieve and maintain their personal well-being. Please view the recording here.