Community Perceptions of Harm Reduction and Its Implications for Syringe Exchange Policy [2020]

In the United States, the rising prevalence of opioid addiction has led to an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths and transmission of infectious disease. This resulted in the declaration of a national public health emergency and the need for harm reduction strategies such as syringe exchange. Florida has seen increases in blood-borne diseases and fatal/nonfatal opioid overdoses, yet harm reduction policy integration has been historically limited. To inform policy change, this study explores the perspectives of community members in Manatee County, Florida, on harm reduction services. Six focus groups were conducted with findings centralized around three emergent themes related to the implementation of a syringe exchange program: (a) awareness and acceptability; (b) facilitating factors; and (c) perceived barriers. The results of this qualitative research helped to inform the successful adoption of a local syringe exchange ordinance. Recommendations for community education and engagement regarding harm reduction policy are discussed.

Amanda Sharp, Joshua T. Barnett, Enya B. Vroom
Journal of Drug Issues, Vol 50, Issue 4, 2020