Creating a Harm Reduction Learning Network Across Central Appalachia

About the Project

In association with the North Carolina Injury & Violence Prevention Branch, the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center is launching a multi-state opioid overdose prevention initiative. This initiative will connect harm reduction practitioners from Central Appalachia in order to build a network for peers to share their knowledge and expertise with each other. Through this project, we plan to create a peer-to-peer learning network. The learning network will support harm reduction work in communities across Central Appalachia, including grassroots community groups and public health practitioners, to identify successful strategies for addressing the challenges presented by the opioid overdose epidemic.

This initiative is a CDC-funded peer-to-peer project under the Overdose Data to Action three-year grant received by NC.

Our Partners

Our core project team is made up of representatives from the North Carolina Injury & Violence Prevention Branch, the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, consultants from NC Survivors Union and Twin City Harm Reduction Collective in North Carolina, and other key harm reduction stakeholders in North Carolina. This unique initiative will bring together a strategic planning committee with representatives from a group of Central Appalachian states (NC, VA, WV, OH, KY, TN, and GA). The committee will include harm reduction practitioners, health department staff, and injury/overdose prevention experts who will guide the initiative and the creation of the peer-to-peer learning network. 

With the help of the committee, we will identify individuals from all 7 partner states to visit and interview. These individuals will represent the diverse groups working to prevent overdose and reduce harm in Central Appalachia, as well as harm reduction program participants. These individual and group interviews will help us to better understand the current landscape of the opioid crisis within our region, the best strategies for protecting the health of those affected, and how the learning network can support harm reduction communities in building power and increasing solidarity across the region.

Our Goals

In the planning stage, we will use key informant interviews to identify:

  • Existing coalitions engaged in harm reduction work across our 7-state network
  • Local harm reduction strategies that are effective or showing promise
  • Barriers to putting effective strategies into practice
  • Best practices for documenting a program’s success
  • Preferred ways to network and learn with regional partners 

Once the learning network is set up, its purpose will be to support harm reduction efforts by:

  • Providing a platform for networking, training, and technical assistance
  • Creating an information exchange for sharing effective harm reduction strategies in rural communities
  • Strengthening partnerships between community groups, health department staff, and public health researchers