Harm reduction approach has dramatic early success

Overdoses have plummeted in New Hampshire since November when the state’s two largest cities made their fire stations “Safe Stations,” a place for drug users to seek medical help without fear of arrest.

More than 200 people sought treatment at fire stations in Manchester and Nashua during the first three months of the program, reports WMUR-TV in Manchester. Total overdoses fell by about half in both cities.


In the Safe Station program, police are not called unless the person seeking help has a weapon. Illegal drugs are dropped in a box at fire stations and police are called for disposal purposes only.

This harm reduction program seeks to save lives by “meeting drug users where they are.” It emphasizes public health, not law enforcement.

By contrast, Ohio makes police the primary responders to drug overdoses. A weak good samaritan law — letting people call for medical help without fear of arrest — makes matters worse.

Ohio’s harm production approach gives drug users and governments only two options: arrest or involuntary drug treatment.

Good in theory, perhaps; disastrous in practice.

Ohio’s response to the overdose epidemic has been to increase arrests, prison terms and divert the highway patrol from road safety to searching vehicles for drugs. The result has been a public health disaster — 3,050 overdose deaths, highest in the nation, in 2015.

Harm reduction saves lives. Harm production kills.

Manchester’s WMUR-TV provides a full report:



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