Harm Reduction Action Center
Join the Harm Reduction MovementJan 17, 2023
Lisa Raville grew up outside of Chicago, IL and graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Communications and a minor in Women’s Studies. Lisa is the Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Action Center, a public health agency that works with people who inject/smoke drugs. Lisa has been with HRAC since 2009. Lisa’s activist voice was cultivated with her experiences as an overnight homeless shelter coordinator, development work at a domestic violence agency, a former campaign manager for a CA County Supervisor, and an AmeriCorps VISTA at an AIDS agency. Lisa is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
The United States, Colorado, and Denver are in the midst of the worst overdose crisis with the most unpredictable drug supply. Over the past 4 years in Denver, over 1,300 folks have died of a drug related death. For years and years, Colorado had black tar heroin, which is difficult to snort and expensive to smoke, so it was almost exclusively injected. Heroin is almost gone and now like the rest of the country, fentanyl now dominates the local drug market. Fentanyl is often pressed in to pills, locally called the ‘blues.’ Since they are unregulated, each pill has a little fentanyl, a lot of fentanyl, or no fentanyl in them. Denver people who use drugs are smoking these pills. Prohibition, criminalization, and the drug market has brought us fentanyl. And it will bring us the next synthetic opioid.
Since 2002, the Harm Reduction Action Center (HRAC) has been the primary provider of people who inject/smoke drugs centered education and services in Colorado. The mission of the HRAC is to educate, empower, and advocate for people who use drugs (PWUD) in Colorado, in accordance with harm reduction principles. The aim of the HRAC is to prevent overdose deaths, re-engage PWUD into community involvement, and protect against the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C. The HRAC prioritizes the reduction of overdose death, and access to appropriate healthcare information to prevent skin and soft tissue and other bacterial infections that are both painful to the individual and costly to the city’s healthcare system. The HRAC gives PWUD the tools to prioritize their health such as syringes, pipes, safer injecting supplies, naloxone, fentanyl testing strips, resources, referrals, health education classes, on-site hep C treatment, and leadership cultivation opportunities.
The HRAC provides services in four areas. Direct service, community engagement, advocacy/policy, and technical assistance to folks working within bureaucratic institutions in which our participants intersect.
We remain the only syringe access program (SAP) that operates its fixed site as a drop-in day shelter. This allows our 12,000+ enrolled participants to gain safety and shelter alongside referrals and the supplies they need to protect themselves from disease and overdose death. 76% of the HRAC’s participants are experiencing homelessness, or are transitionally housed. HRAC is the one moment of respite they have each day to meet their basic human needs like using a bathroom, charging their phone, having a hot cup of coffee, talking with experts realistically about their drug use, using our phone to connect with another service provider, or even just to lie down for a short rest in a space where they feel safe. We strive to treat everyone that walks through our doors with dignity and respect. When folks are accessing and engaging services in HRAC’s drop-in, they are safer and healthier, and quite frankly are not at risk of being arrested.
We believe people shouldn't have to die of a preventable overdose. To that end, we continue to push forward for Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS) in Colorado. OPS are legally sanctioned and supervised facilities designed to reduce the health problems associated with drug use, including reducing the number of fatal overdoses. facilities provide a space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs in controlled settings under the supervision of trained staff with access to sterile equipment. OPS reduce the number of people consuming drugs in public and provide a safe space where people can receive an immediate intervention if an overdose occurs.
Find out how to join the Harm Reduction movement at www.harmreductionactioncenter.org