Harm Redux HTX, a group of harm reduction activists, is working with bars all over the state to educate bartenders on how to help someone who is experiencing an overdose
A group of Houston-based activists is enlisting bartenders in the fight against the overdose crisis with a new educational program intended to teach service industry professionals how to spot — and help — someone who is experiencing an overdose.
The informal collective of activists, who go by the name Harm Redux HTX on Instagram, makes use of a practice known as harm reduction, which seeks to mitigate the adverse consequences of drug use. “It’s the principal belief that all life is precious,” says Flores, an organizer with the group. (Editor’s note: Both organizers interviewed for this story asked that their full names not be published, due to laws in Texas that can sometimes be used against people who engage in harm reduction practices.)
“It’s a desire to reduce the stigma around drug use as well,” says Flores, who adds that people who use drugs are often viewed in the context of their value to capitalism, which causes people to be denied social support like housing, insurance, counseling, and more.
“[The view is] if this person is going to be unreliable, or a liability to my ability to profit off of them, then they’re not worthy of services from the state. And so that’s why you see so many people slipping through the cracks,” Flores continues. “When a moral standard is implemented or exercised on folks who use [drugs], then it gives the state grounds to deny caring for them. Like, now it’s okay to dehumanize them, it is alright for them be houseless and be underserved by the community.”
Texas is among the states hit hardest by these overlapping crises. According to the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent research on health care issues, overdose deaths in the state increased by more than 35 percent during the first eight months of 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, volunteers with Harm Redux HTX were popping into Bars