A top federal health agency is seeking to promote studies into the efficacy of a variety of harm reduction policies—including decriminalization and safe consumption sites—as part of a push to combat the overdose epidemic.
While the Biden administration has yet to take a position on policy proposals to authorize safe consumption facilities, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put out a pair of requests for applications (RFAs) on Wednesday for an effort that will provide funding for efforts to investigate how that and other harm reduction policies could help address the drug crisis.
Specifically, NIH wants to establish a Harm Reduction Network that seeks to “increase our understanding of the effectiveness, implementation and impact of existing and new harm reduction practices to address the ongoing opioid crisis and substance use disorder more broadly.”
HEAL Initiative: Harm Reduction Policies, Practices, and Modes of Delivery for Persons with Substance Use Disorders (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) https://t.co/59VOnbTVmj
— NIH Funding (@NIHFunding) December 29, 2021
A parallel RFA calls for a coordination center within the network to provide “logistical and coordination support,” “data harmonization and data sharing supports” and “research and clinical practice resources.”
Applications are being accepted for projects that involve “(1) developing and testing new harm reduction strategies; (2) examining how to effectively implement new and existing harm reduction strategies; (3) expanding the settings and delivery models through which harm reduction strategies are deployed; and (4) examining the impact of new harm reduction policies implemented at state and local levels.”
“Harm reduction services aim to prevent or minimize adverse outcomes related to substance use, such as fatal and non-fatal overdose and infectious disease transmission,” the notice states. “Examples of established harm reduction approaches include naloxone, fentanyl test strips (FTS), safer smoking equipment, and sterile syringes, as well as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C virus testing.”
The notices from NIH and component agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) say that “emerging” harm reduction policies “include decriminalization of various
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