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Overdose Prevention

The overdose crisis is affecting communities everywhere in the United States. Progress against the high and rising rates will require leadership across all levels of government, and from communities, providers, institutions, and advocates.

Leadership must include people who use drugs.

Why it matters

More than 100,000 lives are lost to overdose each year in the United States. As momentum grows for a health-based response to drug use, overdose has also risen sharply in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. Progress must address the collateral consequences of drug use criminalization in communities of color. 

How We Work

Vital Strategies partners with governments, providers, and communities to support health-centered solutions. We deliver our support through technical assistance from a core team of experts, embedded staff within government agencies to implement projects, grantmaking to fund direct services and organizational capacity building, and paid and earned media campaigns. 

Areas of Focus

We work to establish effective policy and program models that are adaptable across the country, with a focus on the people most at risk for overdose, including those harmed by decades of failed punitive approaches to drug use. We advance interventions oriented towards health and harm reduction, that engage and support rather than criminalize and punish people who are using drugs. We are currently working in the United States in seven hard-hit states – KY, MI, NJ, NM, NC, PA, WI – and several local jurisdictions.

We are working to create widespread and equitable access to lifesaving medications for people who are using drugs, including naloxone, buprenorphine, and methadone.

We are working to engage and mobilize communities for harm reduction services that center people who use drugs and are grounded in equity.

We are working to end reliance on punitive and coercive responses to drug use, and to prevent the criminalization of people for using drugs. We must invest in a supportive, voluntary, evidence-based, community-rooted, health response to drug use.


Opioid Settlement Funds: State-Level Guides

The Vital Strategies Overdose Prevention Program and Christine Minhee of partnered to produce comprehensive guides on opioid settlement funds for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Thus addressing an essential information gap.

See the guides


Opioid Settlement Funds: State-Level Guides

Community members at a local event discussing the importance of expanding harm reduction services