2015: Harm Reduction in the House: Room at the Table



In our 5th annual conference, we continued to broaden the conversation about harm reduction to include other risky behaviors, new groups of people who could benefit, and a deepening of our skills and understanding. We are also committed to welcoming any interested parties to the table, and encourage those who are curious and new to this compassionate philosophy to join us.  We have resources available for you here to familiarize yourself with the basic principles prior to attending the conference, so that we can focus on tools and techniques to deepen our skills on the day of the conference.

This annual conference focused on the process, challenges, and advantages of creating and working in housing programs that embrace harm reduction—that is, housing that does not require abstinence from risky behaviors as the ticket for admission.



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Harm Reduction with Trans and Gender-Nonconforming People  -Ellie June Navidson
While trans and gender nonconforming people are integrated into other marginalized and vulnerable subgroups who need and/or use services that should be harm reduction based, we are likely to experience certain social harms, particularly when this intersects with other forms of oppression such as racism. Our experiences are often particular and require an intentional focus on meeting trans needs within existing services. In this workshop, we will talk through some of these unique vulnerabilities and strategize on how to provide complex care compassionately and effectively.

Harm Reduction Meets the Criminal Justice System -Cynthia Cornelius, Aisha Cornelius Edwards, Andrea Soprych, Avi Isaiah Rudnick
Explore the ways that people experiencing homelessness and complex health concerns come into contact with legal systems and how a harm reduction approach to legal services can result in more effectively meeting peoples’ needs. Presenters will provide an overview of harm reduction and the justice system and exploration of harm reduction in cases of criminal defense, criminal records relief, and the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Model.


Social Justice Movements as Harm Reduction -Jennifer Cushman, Josephine Delgado, Rev. Doris Green, Leah Gipson, Julie Rushkewicz, Ric Wilson
Harm reduction can be misunderstood to be a purely individual endeavor or as a discrete set of public health interventions.  Instead, we engage Harm Reduction as a life philosophy and look at harms from a micro to a macro level. Many of the harms that the people we work with experience are caused or multiplied by misguided laws, policies and societal attitudes.  When we see these larger problems that impact people’s quality of life and our ability to help them, we must engage in efforts to change them.  Representatives from a diverse array of current social justice movements will discuss how their work contributes to reducing harm to entire groups of people impacted by structural or institutional discrimination.

Change is in the Air: What Case Managers Need to Know About Marijuana Policy in IL
-Julie Falco, Kathie Kane-Willis, James Kowalsky, Ali Nagib
Around the country, we are seeing marijuana policies change.  Chicago has passed a decriminalization law and some Illinois patients are now eligible to have a doctor recommend marijuana. As case managers in housing and other services, what do you need to be aware of in order to best support and serve the people you work with?  Panelists will explore the topic from perspectives of policy, law, and health care.

Getting on Board the Harm Reduction Bus 
 -Michael Banghart, Erica Ernst, Anne Lehocky, Debbie Reznick, Dave Thomas
Hear from representatives of Harm Reduction Housing programs, Funders, and Continuum of Care about how they embrace and operationalize Harm Reduction, evaluate progress, and address stakeholder concerns.


Harm Reduction Strategies to Address Anxiety and Trauma -Jodi Brightheart
This workshop will focus on harm reduction strategies for behaviors commonly associated with anxiety or trauma histories. You will learn about the complexities of neurological and physical impacts of trauma and anxiety and how these can be reduced with trauma informed methodology and various harm reduction focused skill sets.

Harm & Risk Reduction Counseling at the Crossroads of Intimate Partner Violence, Substance Use, & Sex 
-Gabriela Zapata-Alma, Susie Bernero, Stephanie Seals
Harms and risks associated with intimate partner violence, substance use, and sex, often compound one another. This interactive workshop will support attendees in understanding how these topics impact one another, and best practices in effectively and compassionately providing risk/harm reduction services.

Just Say Know: Safer Substance Use Strategies and Resources -Maya Doe-Simkins, Matthew Silver, Valery Shuman
The Best Practices of participant-centered care and stage-based interventions may require detailed dialogue about minimizing the dangers and maximizing the benefits of substance use, which requires agility and extensive knowledge. This workshop will dissect some of the rationales and rituals, gear and goals of different substances, drug mixes, and consumption methods. Please plan for hands-on learning with drug consumption equipment and associated injury and infection prevention materials.

Self Care and Managing Countertransference -Bonsai Bermudez & Michael Brieschke
When we listen to a person tell their story, a part of us often hears the echoes of similar stories – our own or those of other people in our lives or who we have worked with.  What do we do with that ‘stuff’?  Sometimes it can be informative and helpful, but it can also be a distraction or even elicit strong feelings that can impact the conversation with people we are working with.  In this workshop we will learn about how we can take care of ourselves during and after these interactions.

This conference is supported by The Chicago Community Trust and the Pierce Family Foundation in partnership with Polk Bros. Foundation, The Learning Center of All Chicago, and Heartland Alliance Health