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Racial Justice & Harm Reduction Summit

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

Black Women Rising, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and local clergy and public health leaders hosted a day-long summit on May 17 in order to address the racial divide in the current drug overdose crisis.

The Harm Reduction: Harm to Healing Summit’s goal was to investigate how the false narrative that opioid addiction is a “whites only” medical epidemic impacts resources, treatment and stigma, while continuing to exacerbate racial disparities and barriers. Despite persistent assumptions that rates of opioid use, addiction and deaths are limited primarily to white Americans, data show that in 2017 the combined rate of opioid abuses among blacks and Latinos in Ohio resembles that of white Americans.

Even though the black community has historically evidenced higher rates of cocaine use when compared to the nation as a whole, the current issue is the increasing number of abused synthetic opioids. As recently as 2014, the number of black opioid-related deaths began to rise similarly to white opioid-related deaths. The number of overdoses involving black Americans and opioids has been increasing over the past eight years.

Experts from the Lucas County Health Department, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Harm Reduction Coalition and the National Congress on Faith and Social Justice offered perspectives and guidance on strategies for more equitable and comprehensive solutions to the crisis.

The panel consisted of Daniel Raymond, Kassandra Frederique, Alexis Pleus, Anton Parks, Sr., Tonya Duran and Rev. Jerome McCorry.

Raymond is the policy director for the Harm Reduction Coalition and has worked with federal and state officials, advocates and providers to expand critical drug user health interventions. He is the chairman of the Drug Users Health Alliance and serves on a host of other boards and committees in the state of New York that focus on drug addiction issues.

Frederique is the New York State director at the Drug Policy Alliance working for policy solutions to reduce the harms associated with drug use. She works with communities throughout the state to address and resolve the collateral consequences of the War on Drugs – state violence and in building a reparative justice framework that positions black and Latino leaders to create solutions to repair and end the harms of the drug war.

Pleus, a professional engineer and adjunct professor at SUNY Broome in the civil engineering technology program, founded Truth Pharm after she lost her son, Jeff, to a heroin overdose. She had discovered that as a parent she had been given false information about how to deal with addicted children so her primary focus is raising awareness, reducing stigma and providing accurate education on substance abuse disorder.

Parks, a recovering substance abuser and former gang member, sits on multiple boards, volunteers extensively in his community in Toledo and with the Re-entry Coalition. He fights against unjust legislation that bans returning citizens from Federal Safety Net programs and has traveled to D.C. to share his story of opioid addition and stand up for returning citizens.

Duran, executive director of Believe Center, Inc, has dedicated her life to helping youth grow through sports into well-rounded additions to the Toledo community. She co-founded the Sports Academy Center organization and has established and maintained over 20 different sports teams working with a variety of community groups such as the Farm Labor Organizing Community, the Toledo Sports Alliance, the Toledo Community Center Alliance, and others.

McCorry of the National Congress on Faith & Social Justice is committed to ending the new Jim Crow era of mass incarceration by addressing poverty, voting inequities and lack of faith in the application of criminal justice reform. He founded the Adam Project of Dayton, OH in 2008, a faith-based non-profit that works with African-American men and boys returning from jail and prison to provide mentoring, counseling and employment opportunities.

The Toledo Lucas County Health Department was represented by Kimberly Toles who presented an overview of the impact of overdoses on people of color.

Panelists and audience members were welcomed by Rev. Marcia Dinkins, the organizer of the event and Erica Poellot served as the moderator.

Frederique spoke of the racial undertones of the overdose crisis and the erasure of people of people in the present opioid epidemic.

Pleus addressed the negative impact of stigma; Raymond broke down the social autopsy of the current public health crisis. McCorry wrapped up the presentations by addressing faith leaders and examining the theological tensions of the crisis.

After the panel’s presentations a question and answer session followed.

After lunch, a world café session was conducted by Blythe Barnow; a clergy corner with McCorry and naxalone training with Toles. Dinkins presented the day’s closing remarks.



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/06/19 21:14:18 -0400.

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