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150 faith leaders release letter supporting overdose prevention centers

Faith in Harm Reduction & Clergy for a New Drug Policy

Letter urges Attorney General Merrick Garland to remove legal barriers for
lifesaving harm reduction initiatives

In response to record numbers of overdose deaths, nearly 150 faith leaders signed onto a letter supporting the opening of overdose prevention centers. The letter demonstrates growing support for harm reduction strategies and the importance of treating drug use as an issue of public health.

New York City recently opened the nation’s first two officially sanctioned centers, which have saved over 324 lives, but they remain in legal limbo from the Department of Justice. The letter states:

Tragically, we know that far too often the reason that people die from an overdose is because they have no one to sit with them in the midst of their pain. Others don’t have the resources or training to keep their friends and loved ones alive.

Rev. Erica M. Poellot, Director of Faith in Harm Reduction for National Harm Reduction Coalition and Minister of Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Ministries for National United Church of Christ, says, “As a minister, I know that people who use drugs are beloved by God, and that we will not end this overdose crisis until we center our shared humanity and commit to dismantling the racist war on people who use drugs. Support for sanctuary spaces, such as Overdose Prevention Centers, are critical to this work for justice in partnership with people who use drugs and to ensuring that our loved ones have access to the compassionate life-saving and life-giving care they deserve.”

120 overdose prevention centers operate across the world. No one has ever died from a drug overdose at one of the sites and there is no evidence that they increase drug use. “So much of the harm we associated with drug use is actually from how we treat people who use drugs,” says Timothy McMahan King, Senior Fellow for Clergy for a New Drug Policy. “We need to treat drug use and substance use disorders as the public health issues they are and respond with compassion not criminalization.”

The letter concludes:

We call on Attorney General Merrick Garland to remove the final legal barriers from Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs) running in this country. We won’t end this crisis overnight but we can ensure that lives are saved and create more pathways to stability, health and flourishing for those who use drugs.

Prominent Signatories include:

Rev. Traci Blackmon

Rev. Otis Moss

Bishop Yvette Flunder

Rabbi Mark Borovitz 

Rev. Jennifer Butler

Bishop Allyson Abrams

Rev. Brian McLaren

Jim Rathburn

Pastor David Greene Sr.

Rev. Erica M. Poellot

Rev. M Barclay

Additional quotes, interviews and full list of signatories available upon request.


Rev. Erica M. Poellot
Faith in Harm Reduction & Clergy for a New Drug Policy
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.