TUESDAY 06 SEPTEMBER 2022
Thematic session #1 | Law enforcement, drugs and harm reduction: Turning from barrier to facilitator to leader
7am Los Angeles/10am New York/3pm London/5pm Nairobi/9pm Bangkok/midnight Sydney
Where police are involved in and supportive of efforts to reduce the harm associated with illicit drug use, and particularly with the criminalization of such use and of drug users, harm reduction strategies and programs are far more effective. Historically and currently in many parts of the world this is not the case, because of stigma, discrimination and criminalization. However, mounting evidence from both research and program experience makes a convincing case of the benefits of addressing drug use as a public health issue, and of the role of police as partners in this public health endeavour. We showcase here five innovative programs that demonstrate the importance of these partnerships:
- National Police Service harm reduction programme for key and vulnerable populations (Kenya)
- NYC RxStat: Stakeholder perspectives on a national model public health/public safety partnership to reduce overdose deaths (New York City, United States)
- Overcoming Legal Barriers to HIV prevention programmes (Kyrgyz Republic)
- Preventing and reducing HIV/AIDS-related deaths in the police service (Zambia)
- Police carriage of naloxone (Scotland)
Session duration: 105 minutes
Harm reduction as a philosophy and operational approach developed its specific character as a pragmatic response to the epidemics of HIV among and from people who inject drugs, though its history is far longer. It has proven to be a most successful multisectoral approach to ameliorating the harms associated with complex issues, especially where they disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Since its formulation, harm reduction has become a guiding philosophy for responses to a wide range of issues, including for example licit and illicit drug use (including alcohol and tobacco), sex work, epidemic infectious diseases and injury and violence prevention including road trauma. In all cases, the role of law enforcement in partnership with health and social welfare agencies and authorities is critical to optimal responses and minimization of associated harms.
The initial focus for the GLEPHA Law Enforcement and Harm Reduction Special Interest Group (SIG) is on building police capacity to work with key affected populations in the response to HIV, protecting and promoting prevention, treatment and care programmes, in a social justice and human rights context. From this initial focus, the SIG will work to promote a harm reduction approach in law enforcement and public health partnerships across the wide range of issues which affect marginalized communities disproportionately.
Jason Kew is a serving Chief Inspector with Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, as Lead for Drugs and Harm Reduction. Jason developed the Thames Valley Drug Diversion scheme, which enables everyone found with controlled drugs an assessment of their use and education/harm reduction without the need for arrest, interview nor admission of guilt. This scheme has been a catalyst for health-based drug interventions across the UK and further afield, also leading to policy changes within education to negate the need for exclusions. He regularly sits on panels of events where he shares his knowledge on evidence based drug diversion, and on emerging schemes in the UK, such as at a recent side event held by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Jason is Co-Convener of the GLEPHA Law Enforcement and Harm Reduction Special Interest Group.
After graduating from the LSE, Julia joined the Metropolitan Police where she served as a Neighbourhood Officer in Camden Town and an Emergency Response Officer in Islington. She took a career break to study MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice at Oxford University. Her dissertation was entitled “An Evidence-Based Approach to Policing Drugs: If the War on Drugs is over, what should the police do?” She has founded the UK National Policing Drugs Network which brings together serving police officers to provide a space for collaboration, discussion and sharing of best practice to drive positive change and harm reduction on a national scale. She currently works for Police Now and volunteers for GLEPHA and LEAP UK.
Agnes Nyoroka Irungu
Agnes Irungo is a holder of a BA in Human Resource Management and Development, and a Higher National Diploma in Project Management. Agnes has worked with the National Police Service (NPS) – Kenya Police Service AIDS Control Unit (ACU) as a Programme Officer for over 10 years. She has extensive experience programming for both internal and external HIV mainstreaming in the Service. She has been vital in upgrading the HIV/AIDS program to a wellness program targeting Police Officers, their families and host communities through an impactful combination prevention approach including Harm Reduction for the marginalized communities. Agnes is passionate about ending stigma and advocates for equal rights for all.
Dr. Jebet Boit
Dr. Biot is a medical doctor, qualified in tropical and infectious diseases and currently a resident epidemiologist working at the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme, Ministry of Health, Government of Kenya. She is passionate about community HIV prevention and has more than 10 years of experience in HIV programme implementation in various health facilities but most recently in programming and policy development in HIV harm reduction within the public health sector. Specifically, she has played a key role in the piloting and cascading of Medically Assisted Therapy Programme and ensuring a vibrant and robust programme through key stakeholder engagement from the grass root (County) to National and international level. One of her major achievements is collaborating with the Kenya National Police Service – AIDS Control Unit in achieving the above.
Dr. Bennett Allen
Bennett Allen is a Project Director at the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where he also received his PhD in epidemiology. Current projects include an evaluation of New York City’s overdose prevention centers, an evaluation of Rhode Island’s expanded methadone access COVID-19 response policies, and the use of predictive analytics to forecast overdose trends.
Dr. Adelya Urmanche
Adelya Urmanche completed her doctoral degree at the Derner School of Psychology, Adelphi University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. She is interested in research that amplifies the voices of people who use drugs and/or directly informs clinical practice and policy. She has worked with organizations like the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Weill Cornell Medical College, and NYU’s Center for Neural Science. Her philosophy is rooted in the bridging of prevention, treatment, research, and policy.
Natalia Shumskaia, PhD.
Natalia has experience in HIV prevention programmes since 1998. She worked in the organization “Doctors Without Borders” as a psychologist and trainer, then in public organizations. Currently, she is the director of the Public Foundation ‘AIDS Foundation East-West’ (AFEW) in the Kyrgyz Republic public foundation and has been in the role since 2005. AFEW has been carrying out activities to prevent socially significant infections (HIV, tuberculosis, drug use) among key populations. AFEW collaborates with the Kyrgyz Ministry of the Interior on HIV awareness and education activities among police officers and in their interaction with key populations.
Superintendent Isaac Zimba is a highly motivated, responsible and well organized National HIV/AIDS and Wellness Coordinator with 18 years of experience in the HIV/AIDS field. He holds Masters of Arts in Business Administration (MBA), BSc. In Project Management, Dip. In Theology, Advanced Certificates in Guidance, Counselling and Placement & HIV/AIDS management and Counselling. He has been coordinating programmes that have seen deaths of Police Officers reduced from 100 per month in 2002 to 8 per month in 2021.
Chris Devlin is a sergeant within Police Scotland, he has 17 years police service in which he has carried out various roles within the police. He started within his current role ‘Harm Prevention, Naloxone Co-Ordination Unit’ in December 2020. Since starting this role he has been involved with the development, training and carriage of naloxone by officers within Police Scotland.