Albany Diocese: “Harm reduction”
Imperfect aid OK
Offering clean needles to drug abusers and others, in exchange for their old and dirty ones, may strike some, or many, of us as a wrong-headed way to help. The idea is to prevent them from sharing needles and spreading HIV/AIDS. And a long track record, in several nations, indicates it does just that.
After long consideration, diocesan Catholic Charities began such a needle exchange program with vans parked in different spots in Albany. The effort operates under the larger public health policy known as harm reduction. In this, authorities accept that some clients are likely to continue certain destructive habits, at least for a while.
During that time, however, we can take steps to reduce the risk of them dying, hurting others or costing society. One example is housing chronic alcoholics without mandating abstinence so they don’t freeze to death on a stoop or end up in costly emergency room visits. Along the way, some sober up, once they have a place to live.
We take the same approach with smoking, obesity, diabetes and other behavioral conditions. Progress counts most. Similarly, God doesn’t demand that we’re perfect before He helps us out: neither should we with our troubled neighbors.
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