Position Description

Program Officer - Statewide Harm Reduction Coordinator
Location United States
# of openings 1
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Vital Strategies, headquartered in New York City, is an international public health organization. Our programs strengthen public health systems and address the world’s leading causes of illness, injury and death. We currently work in 73 countries, supporting data-driven decision making in government, advancing evidence-based public health policies and mounting strategic communication campaigns. Vital Strategies’ priorities are driven by the greatest potential to improve and save lives. They include non-communicable disease prevention, cardiovascular health promotion, tobacco control, road safety, obesity prevention, epidemic prevention, overdose prevention, environmental health, vital statistics systems building and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment research. Our programs are primarily concentrated in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific; the Overdose Prevention Program is our first initiative in the U.S. Please visit our website at www.vitalstrategies.org to find out more about our work.

Vital Strategies is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Program Officer - Statewide Harm Reduction Coordination seconded to the New Jersey Department of Health’s Division of HIV, STD and TB Services  (DHSTS) and the Office of the Director of Opioid Response and Policy. Syringe access and harm reduction programs have gradually developed in New Jersey since the passage of legislation which allowed municipalities to establish permanent Harm Reduction Centers (HRCs), formerly known as Syringe Access Programs. However, HRCs have not proliferated beyond the initial pilot sites due to a lack of support from municipal lawmakers and other stakeholders. In high need communities, there is negligible access to harm reduction services and existing programs face pressure to close or relocate.

While the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH)is a vocal proponent of harm reduction services, the uptake of services is dependent upon explicit municipal support.  Organizations that wish to create or expand services in high need areas do not have the capacity to conduct the necessary outreach with decisionmakers, and the additional education effort places a strain on their ability to provide services.

In response to this need, Vital Strategies will provide seconded staff to assist NJDOH leadership maintain and grow their public support for harm reduction services in the state, particularly with regards to speaking engagements by NJDOH leadership and stakeholder meetings facilitated by NJDOH leadership on the topic harm reduction.  The coordinator will also serve as liaison between NJDOH and HRC staff to educate and train local stakeholders on the effectiveness of harm reduction. Further, the Harm Reduction Coordinator will provide policy guidance to municipal and state-level agencies and organizations who engage with clients who use or have a history of substance use. The harm reduction Officer will stay abreast of emerging issues and overdose trends and advice local leadership on appropriate and harm reduction informed responses.

This is a limited time grant which is set to end on September 21, 2021. Funding renewal is possible, but not guaranteed. 

Specific Duties

The Secondee shall conduct work as if the Secondee were a full-time employee of NJDOH and shall have the following duties.:

  • Provide support to the Assistant Commissioner of DHSTS and the NJDOH Director of Opioid Response and other NJDOH leadership, specifically related to their public speaking engagements and stakeholder meetings on harm reduction;
  • Assist NJDOH leadership design and implement a harm reduction stakeholder engagement strategy;
  • Assist NJDOH leadership design and implement a communications messaging strategy around harm reduction and update NJDOH’s current harm reduction website;
  • Develop key communication documents and social media campaigns on harm reduction;
  • Work with NJ DOH, Vital Strategies and other external partners to engage relevant stakeholders on harm reduction programs and best practices, including designing large events, such as a statewide harm reduction workshop;
  • Serve as a coalition organizer for existing HRC providers and entities that wish to establish HRC programs;
  • Develop and implement harm reduction trainings focused on drug user health; including health equity, overdose prevention, medications for opioid use disorder, and other harm reduction initiatives to municipal agencies, substance use affiliated organizations, community partners;
    • Coordinate with entities that work on HRCs presentations on harm reduction and overdose prevention at community meetings and other public events.
  • Provide trainings and other forms of workforce development to recovery specialist and patient navigators working with the opioid overdose recovery.
  • Support DOH leadership in coordinating with entities that wish to establish Harm Reduction Programs;
  • Use overdose data and emerging trends to synthesize targeted interventions for local governments;
  • Review, analyze and submit comments on county and municipal overdose prevention policy proposals, activities and initiatives.
  • Facilitate with the grant writing and project proposals that will further amplify NJDOH’s harm reduction portfolio.

Qualities and Qualifications

  • Degree in public health and/or related discipline and a minimum of five years “hand-on” experience working in capacity-building, prevention-oriented public health programs, HIV/STI, community-level services, and diverse constituents or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Knowledge of harm reduction practice and theory, including syringe access, safer drug use, and education for HIV and Hepatitis C prevention.
  • Proven expertise and experience driving institutional change, coalition building, developing partnerships with government leaders and services providers and informing public policy.
  • Experience with developing and conducting harm reduction trainings and workshops, generating data-driven reports and recommendations for agencies and providers.


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