Bridge to recovery: Some New Haven residents fear ‘harm reduction kits’ will enable drug users

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven police is now handing out “harm reduction kits” to residents who use drugs. The idea has sparked debate among residents.

The goal of the kits is to keep users safe until they’re ready to seek treatment.

The kits contain things like clean needles, sterilizing pads, and a tourniquet. At first, a glass pipe was going to be included but officials decided to pull the item.

NHPD will not be carrying the kits while on patrol.

“We are not in support of residents or people using drugs or substances,” said Jackie James, of Retreat Behavior Health. “We are in support of people going into recovery.”

James was quick to point out to News 8 that the kit is just a step and not a solution.

“We believe in abstaining,” James said. “We’re part of a program that believes abstinence is the best way, but again we understand relapse is a part of recovery.”

“It’s important for our police department to have a very proactive approach to making sure people are safe and that we don’t treat substance use disorder as a criminal activity, rather we treat it as a sickness that we work to address together.”

– New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker

The New Haven Police Department is the first in the state to distribute the kits. However, similar kits were introduced in other parts of the country some years ago to stop the spread of HIV.

Can the genesis of the idea be traced to the 2018 drug overdoses in New Haven? When asked, Mayor Justin Elicker responded:

“In large part, people are really struggling and they’re self-medicating and we’ve got incredible income and equality in New Haven and across the nation.

[We need to] treat them instead of alienating them, and this is is the solution I think is appropriate.”

– New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker

A grant will pay for the kits, which Elicker feels is a bridge to recovery.

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