Principles of Healing-Centered Harm Reduction
Reframe Health and Justice Collective
In our efforts to evolve current paradigms for the health, rights, and dignity of people of color and indigenous people, queer and trans people, people who use drugs, and people who trade sex, Reframe Health and Justice brings forth that:
Harm reduction is a both a belief in and uplifting of the basic human rights of people who use drugs, which includes practical strategies that address poor public health outcomes associated with drug use. These principles and practices are also applied towards sex work and responses to violence. Harm reduction is a necessary and effective part of the drug use, sex work, and anti-violence care continuum which recognizes and helps accelerate a person’s survival.
Healing justice is an understanding of the ways in which trauma and oppression intersect with experiences of drug use, sex work, and violence, and continue to impact our lives and our communities. Healing justice strategies seek to provide care, repair harm, and advance political movement for freedom, bodily autonomy, and restoration. Healing justice is how we — members of marginalized communities — can approach our work to honor our pasts, present, and futures.
Healing-centered harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and a movement to address the harms perpetuated by an unjust society through education, increased accountability, community mobilization, and redistribution of resources. Harm reduction begins with recognizing toxic ideologies surrounding sex and sexuality, drugs, relationships, gender, and race. Racial, economic, disability, and gender justice cannot be divorced from efforts to reduce harm. Healing justice is a cornerstone of harm reduction. As part of this practice we uplift survival, honor cultural legacies, and foster transformation. Our work is ultimately focused on healing from these harmful ideologies and addressing the ways in which they play out across interpersonal interactions and institutions.
We offer the following principles. Healing-centered harm reduction:
- Acknowledges harm to be an integral part of the human experience and that experiencing harm is one of the many ways our lives, minds, and hearts adapt to the world;
- Recognizes that harm happens on both an interpersonal and an institutional level, and that holistic approaches seek to reduce the harm perpetuated by both;
- Understands that people perceive and experience the world differently; what is harmful or traumatic for one may be an act of resilience to another and these perceptions can evolve over time;
- Puts forth that harm is often a result of the lengths some people must go to survive; a survival which is compromised by institutional harm and violence;
- Honors the many ways that survival and healing look without condemning or glorifying how people survive and heal;
- Values holding space and time for connection, learning, unlearning, elevation, and liberation;
- Centers shared, individual, and intersecting experiences of colonization, anti-Blackness and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and other oppressions;
- Supports holistic, tailored approaches to restoration and reparation as well as practical strategies to reduce harm and increase access to resources;
- Elevates community-based, inter-generational and cultural approaches to resilience that are led by the people most impacted by the issue at hand; and
- Holds systems of power and privilege accountable and addresses power imbalances through transformative justice models that prioritize restoration over punishment, rather than relying on violent and exploitative state-sponsored systems.