Narcan, a drug used to stop opioid overdoses, is currently available to certified Maryland residents through a statewide standing order. Certifications can be obtained by attending a training, offered by one of numerous authorized programs. “Dignity and Respect,” run by peer advocates in Baltimore City, is one such program.
After participating in the Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore’s Harm Reduction and Peer Advocacy Training Program, Nancy Hutchison and William Glen Miller Sr. decided to form their own outreach project, and “Dignity and Respect” was born. Through their training, they had learned about harm reduction, a philosophy that concentrates on providing safer strategies for individuals engaging in high-risk behavior. Conceptually consistent with needle exchanges and safer sex programs, “Dignity and Respect” provides Narcan trainings, condoms, and information to people in Penn North.
William says he’s “living proof” that Narcan saves lives. Both outreach workers have struggled with opioid use in the past, and both have been given Narcan at points during their active substance use. Additionally, both express a desire to give back to their community at what Nancy calls “the street level.” They believe everyone can benefit from Narcan training, and William says it’s especially important to “show that there’s some hope” in Penn North, where the unrest in 2015 took place.
Becoming peer advocates through harm reduction training has taught both outreach workers that people with their experiences can be valuable to their communities. They are hoping that “Dignity and Respect” can expand to include mobile and drop-in services.