Advancing Harm Reduction Services in the United States: The Untapped Role of the Americans with Disabilities Act

29 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2022 Last revised: 12 Aug 2022

See all articles by Abigail Fletes

Abigail Fletes

Northeastern University - School of Law

Maria Katherine Delos Reyes

Northeastern University - School of Law

John C. Messinger

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Valarie Blake

West Virginia University - College of Law

Leo Beletsky

Northeastern University - School of Law; Northeastern University - Bouvé College of Health Sciences; Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health, UCSD School of Medicine

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

Now in its third decade, the overdose crisis continues to worsen. Harm reduction strategies, such as syringe service programs (SSPs), are proven, cost-effective responses to this ongoing public health emergency. Despite extensive research demonstrating that the health and social benefits of harm reduction services far outweigh alleged negative externalities, the number and scope of these programs continue to be severely limited. Restrictive zoning and other discriminatory legal measures figure among key barriers to harm reduction service access. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act (RA) have recently gained prominence in challenging discrimination against people who seek substance use treatment. But the instrumental potential of these landmark statutes to advance access to harm reduction services has been largely unrealized. By drawing lessons from the emerging success in using Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the RA in the realm of substance use treatment, we call for urgent deployment of these statutes to expand access to harm reduction services in the United States. In the context of a spiraling crisis, these legal tools offer enormous promise in safeguarding the rights—and lives—of vulnerable people.

Note:
Funding Information: MISSING

Declaration of Interests: MISSING

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, syringe service programs, COVID-19, harm reduction services

Suggested Citation

Fletes, Abigail and Delos Reyes, Maria Katherine and Messinger, John C. and Blake, Valarie and Beletsky, Leo, Advancing Harm Reduction Services in the United States: The Untapped Role of the Americans with Disabilities Act (2022). 21 Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics 61 (2022), Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 421, WVU College of Law Research Paper No. 2022-013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4036666 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4036666

Abigail Fletes

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Maria Katherine Delos Reyes

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

John C. Messinger

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

United States

Valarie Blake

West Virginia University - College of Law ( email )

101 Law School Drive
Morgantown, WV West Virginia 26506
United States

Leo Beletsky (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law; Northeastern University - Bouvé College of Health Sciences ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-5540 (Phone)

Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health, UCSD School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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