This harm reduction work—aimed at reducing negative health outcomes or improving the social outcomes of people who use drugs—began pre-pandemic with education and training on the use of naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdose, to people who use drugs, their family members and the health professionals in contact with them.
During the pandemic, the city and its civil society partners further supported these communities with basic goods, supplies to minimize COVID-19 transmission and educational materials. Athens is demonstrating how a city can build on learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic to promote future progress on ensuring the right to health for all.
Through a cross-society collaboration dedicated to health promotion and harm reduction, the city of Athens has ensured that pandemic response efforts meet the unique vulnerabilities of marginalized groups. The city has created temporary housing for people affected by homelessness and a specialized support center for people who inject drugs. With support from the Partnership for Healthy Cities global network, Athens is also scaling up distribution of essential supplies and developing communication materials to support vulnerable groups in navigating available services and understanding the pandemic. The city’s interventions demonstrate real commitment to tackling the long-standing challenges of homelessness and substance use, and improving access to health for hard-to-reach groups.
Key resources on COVID-19 and harm reduction: