A Preventative Intervention: Staff Experiences Providing Harm Reduction in the Niagara Region
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Harm reduction is a pragmatic philosophy and practice within health care which emphasizes disease reduction and social accessibility of health services over law enforcement and judicial punishment for drug use. There is a breadth of literature studying the impact of harm reduction practices on clients, but little on the people who facilitate these services. This project uses a political economy of health theoretical approach to examine the role of harm reduction and harm reduction workers within neoliberal state frameworks. Using an interpretive-critical analysis of qualitative interviews, this project highlights an NEP servicing the Niagara Region as a site of resistance to neoliberal restructuring which is also constrained by its policies. By providing public health care and referral to external resources such as housing, the site acts as a form of retrenchment from the neoliberal state while still being hindered by precarious labour and austerity policies in relation to funding. A key finding is that workers engage in emotional labour, boundary negotiation, and debriefing to offset burnout to better perform their labour, which is an unspoken but necessary part of the job. The findings of this research lay the foundation for future research in harm reduction labour and operation as well as emphasizing the blend between service and health care work that is necessary for effective harm reduction practice.