West Virginia considers banning smoking devices and pipes as harm reduction methods

The concept of harm reduction aims to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals who use drugs. This is achieved by providing resources such as syringes and pipes to minimize the potential risks associated with drug use. However, there are concerns raised by numerous harm reduction organizations regarding a bill supported by Del. Geno Chiarelli (R-Monongalia), the main sponsor of the legislation.

According to Tasha Withrow, the co-founder of Project Mayday, pipes play a crucial role in harm reduction. “Pipes provide an alternative to injection,” Withrow stated. She emphasized that this alternative method helps reduce the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections. Additionally, the use of pipes can significantly decrease fatal overdose cases. Withrow believes that offering individuals the option of using pipes promotes healthier choices and respects their bodily autonomy.

According to Del. Chiarelli (R), the ultimate objective of treatment for individuals with substance abuse disorder is to help them completely stop using. He believes that the harm reduction program’s approach did not align with this goal.

Del. Chiarelli, a former addiction counselor, found his inspiration to create this bill after he personally visited a harm reduction clinic out of curiosity.

“They asked me a few questions, and I walked out of there with drug paraphernalia,” he explained.

Del. Chiarelli expressed his support for harm reduction programs while also acknowledging the need to establish boundaries. He emphasized the importance of certain elements of harm reduction but cautioned against enabling behaviors that may arise from it.

Del. Chiarelli expressed his concern about supplying smoking devices, stating that it blurs the boundaries and goes against his belief in harm reduction efforts that do not enable individuals.

According to Del. Chiarelli, he noticed a recurring pattern among those who had achieved successful recovery. They were the ones who expressed reservations about the availability of free smoking devices, acknowledging that such accessibility would have hindered their progress. On the other hand, those who were not faring as well tended to embrace the idea of these devices being readily accessible.

Critics, on the other hand, argue that the effectiveness of the delegate’s standpoint in the recovery journey is debatable.

According to Withrow, if Justice genuinely cares about the well-being of West Virginians, he should veto this bill. She believes that the bill will have devastating consequences, leading to more deaths and diseases. Furthermore, it restricts people’s choices and options, which goes against the principle of body autonomy that they aim to uphold for everyone.

As an overdose survivor myself, I understand the importance of prioritizing the community of individuals battling addiction. In my opinion, removing smoking devices can hinder the mission of harm reduction.

Laura Jones serves as the Executive Director of Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown. If the Bill is approved by Justice, her organization would be directly impacted.

Jones emphasized that the smoking supplies that they are prohibited from distributing can be easily purchased at a nearby smoke shop. He highlighted that these smoking devices are legal and not involved in any illegal activities.

Jones emphasized the importance of empowering clients to make their own decisions when seeking help for addiction. According to her, the organization’s main goal is to support individuals in taking proactive steps towards their recovery.

Jones emphasized that the journey towards recovery is not a quick fix; it is a gradual process that requires time and support. The primary objective is to prioritize the safety and well-being of individuals while they are not yet ready for treatment. “Our main goal is to keep people alive and ensure their optimal health until they feel prepared to seek treatment,” Jones stated. It is crucial to respect each person’s autonomy and allow them to make the decision when they feel ready to embark on their recovery journey. Jones also highlighted that forced treatment often yields poor results, with individuals either dropping out or experiencing rapid relapse.

“It is crucial to respect each individual’s pace when it comes to their journey towards recovery. Even the smallest change can be a significant step in the right direction. Therefore, simply seeking out a harm reduction program can be considered a positive move towards recovery. By taking care of oneself and assuming responsibility for their actions, individuals demonstrate a desire to engage in more responsible and safer behaviors.”

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MBS Staff
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