our history

New York Harm Reduction Educators, Inc. is a non-profit organization that originally began in the late 1980’s as an illegal needle exchange program run by ACT UP and other activists to deal with the health emergency created by the AIDS epidemic and the failure of the government and existing service providers to provide sterile injection equipment to drug injectors, who were being disproportionately infected and affected by HIV. It was called the “Bronx/Harlem Needle Exchange.” In April of 1993 it became one of the first illegal syringe exchange groups to become legal under a waiver of the drug paraphernalia laws by the State of New York. It has been keeping official records for the past 12 years that it has been a legally constituted program, first funded by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR) and then funded by the New York State Department of Health, AIDS Institute, which remains one of its current funder. Other services were added on, over time, in response to requests from participants who wanted access to drug treatment, support groups, case management, mental health services, holistic health treatments and referrals to a host of agencies and services.

Syringe exchange remains central to NYHRE’s mission and is often the entry point through which marginalized and underserved drug injectors come into contact with our service providers. NYHRE delivers services in offices in Hunts Point in the Bronx and in East Harlem. NYHRE’s street-side services are delivered through 4 mobile units and 4 street-side tents located at 10 sites across East Harlem and the South Bronx.

NYHRE’s service outcomes data indicates: (1) significantly increased numbers of IDU’s connected to services and with access to sterile equipment in the S. Bronx and E. Harlem; (2) reduced social isolation among NYHRE participants; (3) increased numbers of clients connected to life stabilizing services, testing for HIV and entering medical services, drug treatment and mental health services; and (4) increased numbers of HIV+ drug users who enter primary care.

NYHRE conducted a two-year outcome study with the Academy for Educational Development. The results indicate that clients made the following statistically significant changes: (a) less precarious housing, (b) healthier nutrition, (c) more stable income, (d) closer family relationships. (e) resolution of legal problems, (f) improvements in health/mental health and (g) recession of drug-related problems.

Because of its commitment to developing and empowering drug users, NYHRE instituted a vocational track, in which participants may start as volunteers, then enter a formal training program called the peer program, and then graduate to a mentor program in which they work in one of the service programs of the agency and train to become part time and later full time staff. It is part of the agency’s harm reduction philosophy to develop clients into staff, as the peer model brings many benefits, especially cultural competence, and a keen understanding of the histories and lifestyles of the communities served by the organization. Skilled and knowledgeable professionals and peers work in teams to provide the greatest benefit to the consumers. To this end, 45% of its staff was recruited from previous programs and volunteers. Currently, NYHRE’s staff is 46% Latino, 41% African-American and 13% White. 80% identify as having personal experience with substance use, and 40% identify as being HIV+.

A Community Advisory Board, comprised of participants and volunteers, advises NYHRE on consumer needs and desires for services, as does a regularly administered “consumer satisfaction survey” and suggestion boxes.

The Board of Directors, which oversees the organization’s Executive Director and ensures that the services continue to faithfully fulfill the mission of the agency, is comprised of volunteer professionals, community members and participants.
953 Southern Boulevard, Suite 302, Bronx, NY 10459
[Tele] 718-842-6050 ▪ [Fax] 718-842-7001
1991 A Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10035
[Tele] 212-828-8464 ▪ [Fax] 212-828-9105
© 2007 New York Harm Reduction Educators, Inc.