Remembering the Patron Saint of Harm Reduction

Where does one begin to describe the loss of a man responsible for saving thousands? The passing of our friend, mentor, and hero, Dan Bigg of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, this past August, was and is a devastating loss for harm reductionist around the world.

Dan who pioneered harm reduction, safe syringe needle exchanges, and naloxone access was the most compassionate, fierce and loving advocate for public health, HIV, and substance use disorder. His empathetic, genuine, servant leadership- a difficult leadership style to pull off and one in which Dan managed so effortlessly- is responsible for the public’s access to the life-saving overdose reversal drug, narcan.

download

The impact of his years of advocacy is immeasurable as Dan, who was named Chicagoan of the Year in 2017, trained and advised countless individuals, like myself, to administer naloxone.

I feel deeply honored to have worked with Dan, privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from him, and forever changed by his unique, insightful, and sensible perspective on drug use, harm reduction, and creating positive change.

Last fall I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dan over coffee to interview him for a class project. While my typical interactions with Dan were all business- picking up naloxone and speaking at various events with him- that day I snagged his time to learn about him, the formation of CRA, and what he believed was necessary to change the world’s understanding of HIV and drug use.

During our time together, I scribbled down notes about his work on Native American Reservations, where he first saw harm reduction practiced, how he and a dozen friends noticed a lack of services or organizations that addressed HIV and drug use simultaneously so consequently formed one, and how CRA took a year to define “recovery” as “any positive change”.

naloxone

But what I took away most from our meeting was the profound acceptance and compassion for “meeting people where they are at” in recovery as CRA defined it. It is a tid bit of advice I carry with me and strive to apply in all aspect of my life everyday and will continue to do so while carrying on the work Dan dedicated his life to.

Dan’s dedication to harm reduction through compassion is at the core of Wake the Nation’s values.

Over the last month our team assembled 1000 naloxone kits for CRA’s trucks which are strategically stationed throughout the Chicago area. We encourage you to learn more about Dan’s work, the Chicago Recovery Alliance and how you can access naloxone, better yet, we invite you to contact us to become an overdose prevention trainer and carry on the life-saving work Dan made possible.

Advertisements

Compassion: The value at heart

Compassion (noun)
:sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it

At the root of compassion is the Latin words, “com” meaning, “with, together” and “pati” meaning, “to suffer”.  In the mid-14c. compassion or rather, “compassioun” meant “suffering with another”. Today’s definition includes a significant alteration, “a desire to alleviate” such suffering.  It is a significant change.

It is also a key ingredient in executing Wake the Nation’s vision, mission and goals. As the Wake the Nation team works to complete our 2019-2022 strategic framework we find ourselves defining the values that shape, support and reflect our philosophy. Compassion is at the core.

Compassion is the heartbeat that pumps motivation into our team. At the center of the organization’s circulatory system, it supplies inspiration, transports love enriched determination and creates momentum. Compassion is responsible for Wake the Nation’s movement.

Image result for compassion

Recognizing the stigma surrounding substance use disorder and mental health which prevents people from seeking help, we wish to alleviate it. No longer should any person have to suffer alone.

As we move forward, designing the framework with which we will base our work, compassion is among our most valued beliefs. It is how we will treat our clients, it is how we will respond to those who do not understand mental health illness and it is how we will carry out our mission.  We expect you to hold us accountable. And we hope you will consider carrying on with compassion too.