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12th national harm reduction conference 2018

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By Keith Brown

From October 17th through 21st, Katal staff members: Donna HyltonKenyatta ThompsonLorenzo Jonesgabriel sayegh, and Keith Brown attended the 12th National Harm Reduction Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. During this biennial conference, some of the most creative minds from across the US and abroad come together to address a myriad of complex issues facing the harm reduction movement and to put an end to the harms and injustices caused by the War on Drugs.

Over the last week of our time in Louisiana, we talked about everything from the history of Harm Reduction as a formal movement to shifting the course of the current movement that one that is inclusive and sustaining. One running theme of the conference, and a driver of challenging conversations, was centered around the erasure and exclusion of people of color, indigenous people, and queer & trans people, and women from the harm reduction movement. It is clear that in order to move forward in a way that centers the experiences and expertise of directly impacted people, we need to move away from this old, dichotomous thinking, and heal within our movement in order for it to survive. Katal is committed to being an accountable partner in this process.

Another recurring theme was the failure of the Harm Reduction movement and allies to “show up” for sex workers in their fight to stop Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). For a summary of how these laws threaten the health, safety, and bodily autonomy of people who engage in sex work, we recommend reading this piece from our friends at Reframe Health and Justice. FOSTA and SESTA has harmed those in our movement, and we need to work together to shift the current narrative.

The closing plenary panel on the movement for safer consumption spaces was another highlight, featuring leaders from Baltimore, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto, Canada. While much of the conference was devoted to doing the hard work necessary to build an inclusive, effective, sustainable movement for change, there was no shortage of fun to be had. During the always memorable fashion show, the Katal team got to debut our new harm reduction and organizing for community self-defense t-shirts which will be available soon via our website!

To learn more about our harm reduction work in New York, contact our Director of Health and Harm Reduction, Keith Brown at or 518.527.6263

To learn more about our harm reduction work in Connecticut, contact our Community Organizing Fellow, Kenyatta Thompson at or 860.937.6094

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