The Grand Rapids Red Project
Sexual activity and drug use can create significant health hazards for individuals as well as the community. However, many people are reluctant to talk about them or treat them. The Grand Rapids Red Project is not. As a result, we accomplish three significant things for the community.
First, our services create the potential for people to choose recovery. We embrace a strategy of harm reduction. Harm reduction is exactly what it sounds like. These services reduce the harmful consequences associated with sexual activity and drug use. Our philosophy is pretty simple. Only those who are alive can make choices to change their health and seek recovery. Research has shown that people who want to abstain are far more likely to succeed when they can access these types of harm reduction programs. Meeting people where they are leads to better health overall.
Second, we fill a significant gap in the medical system. There’s a deadly “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality in the medical field around drug use and sexual health. Many medical providers don’t ask the appropriate questions. People who are using drugs or who have HIV are terrified of the doctor’s office. As one client says, “There’s no respect for privacy when you talk to your doctor about drugs. You’re no longer a person, you’re a disease.” Many medical treatment facilities also require recovery as a prerequisite to providing services. If a patient can’t meet that requirement, where can they go for help? They encounter roadblocks to recovery on the first step of the journey. When these barriers stand in the way, patients simply get worse. The Grand Rapids Red Project takes a different approach. Everyone is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of why they walk in the door. That gives them the courage to come back. When and if they are ready to make different choices, they know they can come to us for information and help. We are a nonjudgmental bridge that connects people to the basic right of health care.
And finally, we improve health and save money for the entire community. By focusing on harm reduction and welcoming anyone who seeks our services, we are helping to reduce risk and cost for everyone. It’s important to remember that "everyone” includes people who have a disease, as well as those who may contract it in the future. For example, the lifetime cost of treating someone with HIV is about $500,000. Compare that to the $0.10 cost of a sterile needle that has been proven to prevent HIV. Or consider that the average cost of an emergency room visit for accidental overdose is approximately $16,000. Contrast that with the cost of a Naloxone rescue kit at $90. Harm reduction is a strategic, compassionate and cost-effective way to reduce the public burden of healthcare, especially for people who are covered by the public health system.
Our community needs a safe space in which people exercise their right to explore more informed health choices related to sexual health and drug use, without judgement and without fear. That place is The Grand Rapids Red Project.