My name is David Jay, and I am the new Executive Director for the Sierra Harm Reduction Coalition. I am excited for the opportunity to pursue, implement and expand much-needed evidence-based harm reduction services in the Sierra Foothills community. Our services are equitable and inclusive of everyone, regardless of drug-use, identity, affiliation and belief, and will provide positive reinforcement to catalyze change for individuals using drugs in our unique rural community. My hope is that we lay our foundation now to establish the Sierra Harm Reduction Coalition as a community fixture committed to grinding away the barriers created by stigma and discrimination directed towards people who use drugs. As Executive Director, I will ensure that we do this not only via harm reduction services, but by promoting social justice, including advocating for the removal and improvement of local drug regulations, policies, laws, and law enforcement practices.
Growing up in a small-town farming community in Indiana, it was clear that substance use was not the same for all of us. Instead of helping those in need of aid and advocacy, we ignored or stigmatized individuals and entire groups because of their substance use – this approach was deleterious to our community. I have lost friends and family to drug-related overdose, violence, and the deleterious effects of long-term illicit drug use without efficacious treatment or services. Thank goodness the paradigm has shifted, with evidence showing the physical and psycho-social health benefits of “meeting people where they are at” with evidence-based, low threshold, harm reduction services and strong connections to community. As the Executive Director of the Sierra Harm Reduction Coalition, I will ensure that our harm reduction services and advocacy stay on the bleeding edge of efficacy and social justice.
Even as a young child, I wanted to be a scientist applying breakthrough findings to make the world a better place for everyone. Through hard work, and an overabundance of privilege, I earned a PhD in Immunology. However, my experience was that my research infrequently helped others – this represented an immense disconnect between wanting to benefit the world, and what I was actually doing. Understanding that only together we can be the agents of positive change, helped me see that my goals, personally and professionally, can fall in line. I am excited to directly help the community of people using drugs by providing and promoting services that protect their health and reinforce positive change - helping one another is essential for discovering and reaching our goals.
It is our goal to protect the rights and bodily autonomy of people who use drugs. Without judgement, we “meet people where they are at” and provide harm reduction services free of charge to the people who use drugs community and advocate for their wellbeing. I am eager to get to know and work with you. Call me, text me or let's meet to help our community.
David Jay, Ph.D.
Sierra Harm Reduction Coalition