Person holding xylazine or fentanyl test strip as a method of harm reduction for substance use.

Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention

We recognize that recovery can be a difficult process. That’s why we offer a variety of programs for individuals of all ages and in all stages of recovery who want to become drug or alcohol free. Howard Center adopts a harm reduction approach, focusing on practical strategies to minimize the negative impacts associated with drug use, emphasizing safety and well-being.

Our compassionate staff will support you throughout your recovery process.

If you are new to Howard Center and are looking for services, please call our Access and Intake number at 802-488-6000.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a public health strategy that aims to reduce the negative consequences of drug use without necessarily requiring cessation of use. It involves a range of support services and practices, such as providing access to clean needles, offering overdose prevention education, and facilitating treatment options. This approach prioritizes the health and dignity of individuals, recognizing the complexities of substance use and focusing on mitigating its potential harms.

Safe Recovery Program

Howard Center’s Safe Recovery program provides free support throughout the recovery process, from active use to sustained recovery, including during periods of relapse.  The program seeks to reduce the incidence of drug-related harm, such as a fatal drug overdose.

Safe Recovery’s syringe service program offers syringe exchange, free Narcan (an opioid overdose reversal medication) and overdose prevention training, fentanyl and xylazine testing strips, HIV and Hepatitis C testing and linkage to care, case management, Hepatitis A/B vaccination and a legal clinic.  Safe Recovery also offers on demand drug treatment for opioid use disorder. Our low barrier buprenorphine program provides same day access to life saving medication and wrap around support services such as counseling and case management.  Clients may refer themselves and walk-ins are welcome.  Many services are free and anonymous, including syringe exchange, hepatitis C testing, and overdose prevention.

As part of its harm reduction approach to the treatment of opiate use, Howard Center’s Safe Recovery program distributes:

  • Free fentanyl and xylazine test strips
  • Free and anonymous Narcan overdose reversal kits

In addition, the program offers:

  • Syringe exchange services
  • Low barrier buprenorphine access
  • Drug treatment options counseling
  • Case management
  • Harm reduction peer support groups
  • HIV and Hepatitis C testing and linkage to care
  • Free legal clinic

Unlike many Howard Center programs, clients do not need to have an appointment to receive services and may visit Safe Recovery at 45 Clarke Street in Burlington.  For more information by phone, call Safe Recovery at 802-488-6067 , our general access and intake number at 802-488-6000 , or First Call for Chittenden County, our 24/7/365 crisis service, at 802-488-7777.

Read more about opioid overdose prevention from the Vermont Department of Health.

Safety recommendations for preventing overdose:

  • Never consume alone;
  • Always have Narcan (naloxone) on hand and know how to administer it;
  • Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 in the event of overdose: Vermont’s Good Samaritan law will prevent your arrest for drug violations;
  • Use fentanyl test strips to know what you are taking and make educated decisions.
  • Seek medication-assisted treatment at Howard Center or UVM Medical Center Emergency Department.