Hear from Mariah Frank about BCAP's Harm Reduction Services!
It may sound strange to say that my passion for HIV prevention started in my high school auditorium, but it’s true! While watching my older brother and many friends perform in Rent, it became clear to me that we all need to respond to the HIV epidemic with more compassion.
A few years later, I learned about harm reduction as a compassionate social justice approach that upholds the rights, dignity, and autonomy of people. After graduating from college, I dove head first into harm reduction work with sex workers and people who use drugs. From them, I learned that care and empathy must be at the core of service provision.
As BCAP's Prevention Manager, my passion for harm reduction enables me to provide person-centered services. In March 2020, BCAP staff quickly recognized that the pandemic was deeply impacting people experiencing homelessness and people who use drugs, who were coming to BCAP for help. More people were showing up at our front door dehydrated and hungry, and unsure where to find many of the essential items that they needed to survive.
Fueled by compassion, BCAP and Boulder County Public Health staff expanded our syringe access and street outreach services. These programs focus on HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) prevention and education for people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness. Syringe access services are open Monday – Friday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at BCAP’s Boulder office. Several times a week, trained staff and volunteers also pull a cart filled with life-sustaining and harm reduction items throughout our community to give to anyone in need.
Whether at our service window or on street outreach, staff provide new syringes and containers for their secure disposal; supplies for safer substance use, wound care, and safer sex; toiletries and warming items; and ready-to-eat food and hydrating beverages. Staff also educate about and distribute fentanyl test strips and naloxone (i.e. Narcan) to prevent drug overdose fatalities in our community.
In 2021, BCAP provided 553 people who use drugs, many of whom were experiencing homelessness, with 9,872 hydrating beverages and ready-to-eat food items, 6,103 hygiene and body-warming supplies, 56,050 syringes and smoking pipes, and 360 naloxone kits to reverse overdose and save lives!
The essence of harm reduction is “to meet people where they’re at.” Syringe access, street outreach, and other HIV services at BCAP do exactly that. The following story about “Jessica,” (not her real name), age 23, illustrates how your support to BCAP makes a meaningful impact on someone’s life.
Jessica started receiving Prevention Services from BCAP in 2018. She was experiencing homelessness and struggling with substance use. She had multiple abscesses, and was at risk of losing limbs. Jessica visited BCAP regularly for syringes, naloxone, wound care supplies, warming items, toiletries, hydrating beverages, and ready-to-eat food.
Jessica gradually built trust with Prevention staff, and shared that she was in an abusive relationship and pregnant. At BCAP, she got tested for HIV and HCV. She learned she was living with HCV and needed to wait to start HCV treatment until after her delivery. Jessica renewed her Medicaid insurance with the support of BCAP staff, accepted referrals for Boulder County services, and secured Section 8 housing. Motivated to have a healthy pregnancy, Jessica accessed prenatal care, separated from her partner, and worked successfully toward sobriety. With the support of Prevention staff, she remained in medical care, completed treatment, and was cured of HCV. Jessica has maintained housing and part-time employment, and is taking care of her daughter.
Your generosity makes stories like Jessica’s possible. BCAP counts on your support to ensure that people at risk of HIV and HCV transmission can improve their health with the help of skilled staff. Your one-time or monthly donation will help raise the remaining $37,000 needed this spring to fund all of BCAP’s HIV Services. Please make your gift today in support of BCAP’s essential work, benefitting our whole community.
Click here to donate online! Or mail your check to BCAP: 2118 14th St. Boulder, CO 80302
Mariah Frank Sarah Annecone
BCAP Prevention Manager BCAP Development Director
BCAP serves Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties. Until there is a cure, BCAP works to improve the lives of people living with HIV,
minimize transmission, and end stigma.