Community forum examines pros, cons of harm reduction techniques for those struggling with addiction
Let's Talk Harm Reduction
GREAT FALLS — A community forum examining harm reduction techniques for those with substance use disorders will aim to foster a dialogue to build understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of the controversial practices.
In a nutshell, what some see as saving lives, others see as enabling those who struggle with addictions.
Harm reduction techniques include things such as:
- medication assisted treatment where individuals who are dependent on certain substances take another drug that prevents them from getting high from opiates, helps prevent withdrawal symptoms and allows optimal daily functioning.
- needle exchange programs that allow those who inject substances to exchange dirty needles for clean ones;
- and making NARCAN more readily available for everyday citizens. NARCAN is the drug first responders use to treat someone who is overdosing on opiates.
The forum, Let’s Talk Harm Reduction: Strategies for Addiction Recovery, is slated for Oct. 3 at Heritage Hall on the campus of Great Falls College. Refreshments will be served at 5:30 p.m., and the event kicks off at 6 p.m. with four speakers.
Megan Farmer, founder and executive director at Dynamic Recovery, will give an overview of harm reduction from her perspective as a licensed clinical professional counselor. Farmer is an adjunct instructor in the substance abuse and addictions counseling program at Great Falls College who has worked for many mental health and addiction centers in Great Falls before founding her own.
Tammera Nauts, who oversees integrated behavioral health special projects for the Montana Primary Care Association, will talk about medication assisted treatment. Nauts has broad experience in the substance use disorder and mental health fields from direct service to the administration of programs and services for all levels of care. She has developed multiple programs for treating co-occurring conditions.
Ashley Haley, a student in Great Falls College’s substance abuse and addictions counseling program, will give a first-hand account of her recovery. She has been enrolled in medication assisted treatment since her recovery began in 2015. She is an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe located on the Rocky Boy Reservation and a descendant of the Diné and Assiniboine tribes. She is a proponent of integrating cultural and identity components within an individual’s treatment. She also serves as ambassador and advocate for Native American students at Great Falls College’s Native American Enrichment Center.
Lela Graham, a certified recovery coach with an emphasis in harm reduction, will wrap up the speakers as she talks about needle exchange programs. Graham has been the Montana state lead for the recovery advocacy project for the last four years and is executive director of Independence Rock Coalition: center for ethics, recovery and social justice. She is dedicated to bringing awareness and decreasing the stigma for those with substance use disorders.
The night will conclude with a panel discussion addressing the pros and cons of harm reduction. Participants on the panel include Clint Huston and Katie Cunningham with Great Falls Police, licensed addictions counselor George Meadors, psychiatric nurse practitioner Shelley Andrus, Beth Morrison from the Substance Abuse Prevention Alliance and Farmer.
The panel will give their perspectives and thoughts on harm reduction.
“Harm reduction is controversial,” said Dr. Elfie Neber, an instructor and head of the substance abuse and addictions counseling program at Great Falls College who has organized the event with students, faculty and members of the program’s advisory panel. “We will have various viewpoints because harm reduction is not perfect. Nothing is. We hope people can hear the perspectives, take in the information and make up their minds about what is best for our community because our community must find effective ways to address the addiction problems it is facing. This is important stuff.”
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