SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a trend no one wants to see.
To give you a better idea of the numbers, there were 102 deaths reported in the 12-month period ending this past November.
That’s up from 70 deaths reported in the same time window the year prior.
An event called Strategies to Reduce the Impact of Substance Use was held in Sioux Falls Wednesday.
Dr. Nzinga Harrison was the keynote speaker.
The Georgia-based physician sends a message Wednesday about harm reduction.
“So our current system is based kind of like if you’re not completely, utterly abstinent from every substance you’re not ready for treatment. You can think about that like a person with diabetes. Would you say, ‘If your blood sugar’s not completely controlled, you’re not ready for insulin?’ It doesn’t make sense when you say it like that, right? But it’s because people have a hard time understanding that substance use disorders are chronic medical conditions,” Eleanor Health chief medical officer and co-founder Dr. Nzinga Harrison said.
Harrison says even if someone is using, there are ways to prevent tragedy.
She says forms of harm reduction people typically think of include Narcan and needle exchange programs.
“Having a safe community where a person feels valued and cared for and where they feel like they belong is also part of harm reduction,” Harrison said.
She says that compassion can create change and ultimately help prevent overdose deaths.
“You may not be pitching your legislator, you may not be running an addictions company like I am, you may not be a person whose child died, but you can see a person and look them in the eye, connection. You can see a person and say, ‘I hope you’re doing okay today,’ connection. You can have a friend tell you about their child who’s struggling and give them a hug. Those little things we can do for connection, butterfly effect, ‘” Harrison said.
Wednesday’s conference was put on by the Helpline Center, USD, and the South Dakota Department of Social Services.
Click here for resources related to substance use disorder.