Philadelphia made the bold move of allowing Comprehensive Engagement Sites to implement the city’s ‘harm reduction’ policy starting in early 2018. The treatment approach would see the regulated use of illicit drugs on patients while guiding them to full recovery. Sovereign Health CEO Tonmoy Sharma gave two thumbs up to the initiative.
Controversial as it is, harm reduction has its merits. The process will permit patients to get a jab, medically supervised, at no cost to Philadelphia. The private sector takes a lead role in configuring how the system will play out. The immediate goal is to stop the rising incidence of drug overdose and save many from certain death. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said it appropriately in announcing the measure: “We have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent … people from dying.”
The policy, to be sure, will meet fierce opposition, but Dr. Sharma stressed that Philadelphia did the right thing. It’s hard to justify harm reduction as morally correct, but the treatment approach has science supporting its effectiveness. And because of the safe places provided for recovering drug users, the strategy is seen to slow down the ill-effects brought by the opioid epidemic drastically.
A Winning Solution
Philadelphia officials made clear that harm reduction is just a part of the city’s bigger plan to turn back the gains made by illegal drug use. According to Dr. Sharma, the clarification is welcome as it eliminated the notion that the city made its bet on one big push. The truth is Philadelphia started on the right track by indicating that a comprehensive plan will soon take effect to check the proliferation of drug use.
If city officials are serious about the campaign, an excellent way to set things in motion is to formulate supporting policies that would treat drug use as a medical instead of a criminal case. Dr. Sharma recommended the setting up of drug courts for this purpose. They will be tasked to provide clarity for existing and future drug cases – that many if not all the “offenders” also struggle with a co-occurring mental health condition. This will pave the way for drug users to get the evidence-based treatment they deserve, positioning them to a greater chance of recovery.
Harm reduction has been used before in treating other medical conditions, and data provided by the government attested to the measure’s proven efficacy. He pointed to the earlier declaration made by the Department of Health and Human Services that the policy and similar programs are “effective, safe, and cost-effective with no evidence of deleterious effects.”
It is understood that Philadelphia first studied how the treatment process was implemented in select European countries, Australia, and Canada before making its crucial decision. The programs proved successful, and it’s clear that the city is optimistic that harm reduction will perform the same way.
Focus Is Winning The War
Philadelphia embraced harm reduction for an obvious reason – the old approach is not working anymore. Because of the drug overdose, the body count is piling up, so the city decided to adopt a radical measure. But science is on the side of the controversial policy. According to Dr. Sharma, when the decision to give harm reduction a chance, Philadelphia did acknowledge that substance use is not about the failure of discipline.
Drug use also involves inner wrestling with a devastating mental condition, which Dr. Sharma said focuses on the treatment procedures that Sovereign Health offers. The healthcare provider is a proponent of dual diagnostic – treatment technique that aims to heal both substance abuse and behavioral disorder. Dr. Sharma stressed that a holistic approach is the best way to gear an addiction patient to lasting recovery.