JUNE 2007 • Issue 5
1) Lift the federal funding ban on syringe exchange programs: Contact Daniel Raymond, Policy Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, to help you set up a meeting with your representative or senator to discuss lifting the federal ban on syringe exchange, both in the US and for international programs. Email Raymond (at) harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376, extension 29.
2) Provide overdose prevention for newly released inmates: Investigate whether your local jail or nearby prison provides overdose prevention support for inmates re-entering the community, including naloxone (or “Narcan”), which reverses or prevents the toxic effects of opioid overdose. Very few facilities do. A study published in the January 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that newly released ex-prisoners had a nearly 13 times greater risk of death during their first two weeks out of prison than the general population. The leading cause was drug overdose.
3) Ensure re-entry programs for inmates returning to their communities: Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and ask your representative to support prison re-entry programs by voting for the Second Chance Act of 2007 (H.R. 1593), introduced by Representative Danny Davis (D-IL). To find out who your representative is, visit http://www.house.gov and enter your zip code. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Second Chance Act “would provide re-entry funding on the state and local level to support former prisoners’ needs for housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, employment and rebuilding family and community ties.” Next step: Ask your senator to co-sponsor the Senate’s version, or thank them if they’re already on board.
4) Reform federal crack cocaine policies: On May 1, the United States Sentencing Commission
(USSC) sent Congress an amendment that would reduce the length of federal sentences for crack cocaine convictions by an average of 16 months for most offenders. While this positive amendment will automatically become law if Congress doesn’t try to block it by November 1, the USSC emphasized that genuine reform of our nation’s unjust crack cocaine sentencing policies will require proactive legislative action by Congress. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) has proposed a bill that would help do that by equalizing federal sentencing guidelines for crack and powder cocaine, the Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2007 (H.R. 460). Visit The Sentencing Project to learn more about H.R. 460 and call your representative to urge him or her to become a co-sponsor.
5) Show solidarity: On June 3, Recovering Nepal sent a letter to government officials demanding consistent, quality methadone for drug users, and asking for a meeting to address the mismanagement and intermittent operation of the government’s methadone program. If you’d like to help, please contact Anan Pun at ananpun (at) gmail.com or the Asian Harm Reduction Network at info (at) ahrn.net.
6) Stay involved: Visit the Harm Reduction Coalition’s Take Action page to send messages to legislators or write a letter to the editor of your local paper about political issues related to syringe access, overdose prevention, drug treatment, safer drug use, HIV and hepatitis C. You can also use the page to search for a syringe exchange program near you that needs volunteers.