PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
August 19, 2019

Judith M. Persichilli
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Department of Health Holds Harm Reduction Workshop

In advance of  International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, the New Jersey Department of Health is hosting Fighting Stigma to End the Overdose Epidemic: A Harm Reduction Workshop, on August 21,which will highlight harm reduction as a life-saving, evidence-based public health tool for New Jersey communities.  Harm Reduction efforts prevent overdose deaths and support individuals with substance use disorder by addressing their health and social needs.


This workshop, which begins at 9:00am, will feature national experts and local leaders discussing how harm reduction policy and practice can prevent overdose deaths, reduce drug-related stigma, decrease transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, and promote the dignity and health of all New Jerseyans, including individuals with substance use disorder.


New Jersey Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli will deliver opening remarks at 9:30am.


The featured speaker for the workshop is Sheila P. Vakharia, PhD LMSW, who serves as a researcher at the Drug Policy Alliance.  This session will introduce attendees to the philosophy and practice of harm reduction as a public health strategy to promote the health of people who use drugs.


The workshop’s keynote will be delivered by Dominick​ ​"Nick"​ ​Bucci​,​ ​a​ ​retired​ ​New​ ​Jersey​ ​State​ ​Trooper​.  He spent​ ​25​ ​years​ ​confronting​ ​street​ ​level​ ​drug​ ​dealers​ ​and​ ​international drug​ ​smugglers. Bucci​ ​retired​ ​from​ ​the​ ​State​ ​Police​ ​in​ ​1991​ ​and​ ​has​ ​dedicated​ ​himself​ ​to​ ​ending​ ​drug​ ​prohibition​ ​and believes​ ​that​ ​police, ​​prosecutors ​and​ ​judges​ ​are​ ​best​ ​positioned​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​injustices​ ​and​ ​ineffectiveness of​ ​the​ ​criminal​ ​justice​ ​system. During his remarks, he will discuss how harm reduction policies promote public safety, in addition to public health and human dignity – and how law enforcement plays a critical role in harm reduction.

The first panel of the day will include representatives from New Jersey’s Harm Reduction Centers, who will talk about the importance of these centers in addressing the opioid epidemic and reducing the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne diseases.  The afternoon panel discussion will feature advocates, parents, and individuals with lived experience speaking about the importance of reducing stigma.

Workshop participants will:

  • Learn the principles and practices of harm reduction, an evidence-based public health practice endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, and World Health Organization


  • Become familiar with existing Harm Reduction Centers in New Jersey and the health services they provide
  • Gain tools to reduce the impact of stigma on the health and wellbeing of New Jerseyans with substance use disorder

New Jersey currently has seven Harm Reduction Centers, which integrate behavioral interventions and access to services to prevent and reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Per CDC guidelines, they provide sterile syringes and injection equipment to participants based on need.  CDC guidelines do not advise the distribution of sterile syringes is contingent upon participants turning in used syringes. However, programs do also facilitate the safe disposal of used syringes. Some Harm Reduction Centers may provide participants with drop-in access to food, telephone, laundry services, restrooms, showers, and computer services.


Expanding the use of harm reduction strategies is part of Governor Murphy’s comprehensive plan to end the opioid epidemic.   The Governor is committed to increasing access to evidence-based treatment and support for individuals with substance use disorder.  New Jersey’s Harm Reduction Centers open the door to recovery by supporting the overall health and well-being of people who use drugs through linkages to drug treatment, medical care, housing, overdose prevention and other vital social services.


To view the full agenda visit: http://www.njha.com/education/brochure/?id=2985


This event is hosted with support from the CDC Data-Driven Prevention Initiative and the CDC Cooperative Agreement for Emergency Response: Public Health Crisis Response – Opioid Epidemic.


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Last Reviewed: 8/19/2019