The Value of Education

Guest contributor, Noel DeLeon, Community Engagement Specialist, gives us an update from the CLEAR team and the LCOTF.

As I reflected on our team’s efforts over the past year, I was looking for a main takeaway. One topic stood above the rest: Education.

Recently I paid a visit to someone I’ve been coaching since early June. I originally met this person after they had experienced an overdose. At the time, they were still processing the event. They told me that they were shocked, primarily due to the overdose even occurring. This shock was my opening to educate them about chemical compounds being seen in illicit substances.

After our discussion, the individual explained that they were completely unaware of the newest trends in the drug supply and that, between the overdose and this new information, they would be making every effort to regain their sobriety. Fast forward six months to my most recent visit with the same individual. While discussing the amazing strides they were making in their recovery, the topic of Harm Reduction came up.

The individual’s immediate reaction to Harm Reduction was, “I don’t like it – it’s just enabling.”

It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this response to Harm Reduction. As a result, I’m always prepared to provide facts to illustrate the benefits of this particular recovery pathway. I shared these facts and while I did, I saw an expression of understanding followed by a look of regret and shame on the individual’s face. They immediately apologized for their words, and I quickly explained that their apology was not necessary.

I shared that I also had the same misinformed belief not too long ago and it was only through learning the facts that I was able to overcome the falsehoods that are spread about Harm Reduction. The individual’s reaction and reversal of opinion demonstrated how education plays an important part in the work that we do. It also highlighted how dangerous misinformation can be.

I truly believe that the information that was discussed during our initial conversation helped the individual move from the contemplation phase to the action phase in their recovery. I also believe that the facts will be further shared among the individual’s friends and family. These facts might someday help someone within their circle feel safe enough to connect with Harm Reduction Services. Such a connection has the potential to save a life.

That potential to save a life is entirely due to education – the type of education that informed the works of scientists, doctors, clinicians, and so forth, who then shared their findings to the world. These findings became the basis of the education and training that eventually reached me, allowing me to share it with others.

Evidence-based facts are the best way I know to combat the stigma and misinformation that is so pervasive and harmful within our communities, our country, and our world. I hope we all continue to learn and to educate – not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of building a better tomorrow. My thanks to McCall and the entire task force for the valuable education and training you’ve shared with me. I promise to always pay it forward.