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    Center for Harm Reduction Services

    ​COVID-19 and Harm Reduction 

    COVID-19 Resources and Information for Harm Reduction Programs​

    The Maryland Department of Health Center for Harm Reduction Services recently created COVID-19 Resources for Maryland harm reduction providers: a guidance document recommending continuation of services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a Harm Reduction During COVID-19 video that features local innovation to accomplish that goal. The guidance document recommends continuing services with appropriate social distancing and mask wearing in compliance with Governor Larry Hogan's Declaration of State of Emergency renewed November 25, 2020. The video highlights how programs have risen to this expectation through tremendous partnership and passion that has led to successful continuation of services for people who use drugs. Links to these resources and others are below:

    COVID-19 and naloxone access for Opioid Treatment Programs ​

    Free naloxone is available for patients impacted by COVID-19 policy change. An order form for OTPs is now live.
    Maryland Opioid Treatment Programs can work to prevent COVID-19 among patients, staff, and communities by supporting social distancing with increased number of take-home medication doses. However, this must be balanced with mitigation of overdose risk associated with increased availability of methadone or worsened pulmonary function among patients from infection. 
    Maryland Department of Health Center for Harm Reduction Services in partnership with the Behavioral Health Administration is making the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) available to OTPs to encourage overdose risk education and reduce risk of death. Patients can be educated on overdose and given a naloxone kit to take home for use in an overdose emergency.
    Due to limited supply, OTPs are asked to make the first request for kits based on assessment of their number of high risk patients. The criteria for prioritizing patients to receive naloxone kits in this first phase of availability:
    Patients with persistently unstable Opioid Use Disorder
    Patients over the age of 60 and those with high risk medical conditions, including COPD, asthma, any other pulmonary condition, blood disorders such as sickle cell, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, pregnancy, stroke, CHF, CAD, diabetes, HIV, or other immunosuppressed state. (This group of individuals is at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection and could experience compromised pulmonary function and higher risk of respiratory depression even with stable OUD and stable methadone doses.​)

    Order naloxone kits for your OTP using this form

    Find more information and FAQs for OTPs at the Behavioral Health Administration's webpage​

    Vaccine Information (last updated Jan. 22, 2021)

    As the coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available, the Center for Harm Reduction Services has compiled resources to provide information about the COVID-19 vaccine for harm reduction staff and people who use drugs. 

    Two companies (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech) were issued Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Both vaccines are authorized and recommended for widespread distribution. Both vaccines protect you and those around you from COVID-19, were highly effective in preventing serious illness in clinical trials, provide a path forward in ending the pandemic, and have exhibited minimal side effects during clinical trials. 

    Harm reduction entities are essential to public health and have continued to provide services throughout the pandemic. As such, harm reduction workers are included in the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan Phase 1A, which means, along with other essential health care workers, they are prioritized to receive the vaccine.  

    The Center's goal is to provide resources to educate harm reduction workers and the people they serve to make informed decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. Our hope is that these documents provide information to help harm reduction workers build trust in obtaining the vaccine for themselves and recommending it to others, and become comfortable discussing and addressing concerns brought to their attention by the people they serve.

    Vaccination Site Registration Guidance 

    As vaccine distribution continues and expands to new priority groups, there is an increased need for vaccination sites. It is important to have vaccination sites for the individuals we serve to have access to the COVID-19 vaccines without fear of judgment or stigma.

    We encourage harm reduction programs to consider becoming a vaccination site to offer a safe place where people who use drugs can obtain the vaccine from people they trust. This may also limit barriers such as access to transportation and technology. 

    Programs interested in becoming vaccination sites may register through Maryland's Immunization Information System (ImmuNet). Please utilize ImmuNet's Quick Reference Guide which includes 1) Eligibility Screening, 2) Provider Registration/Profile, 3) Instructions on how to order vaccines, and 4) Instructions on reporting administered doses. 

    Programs should ensure they can meet the data reporting requirements prior to registering to become a vaccination site. 

    Registration of new vaccination sites is managed by the Center for Immunization within the Prevention and HEalth Promotion Administration. Please email mdh.mdimmunet@maryland.gov or call (410) 767-6794 for any technical assistance needs related to vaccination site registration.