Intro to Harm Reduction

social worker and participant at table

In this session, presenters will provide an introduction to harm reduction practice as it applies to working with individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use, poverty, and other bio-psychosocial stressors. Attendees will understand harm reduction as an evidenced-based approach that minimizes the potential harms of high-risk behaviors through practical and effective solutions. Presenters will emphasize the person-centered and community-oriented aspects of this model, which prioritize the safety, independence, and autonomy of clients. Dispelling myths of harm reduction as an “anything goes” practice, attendees will be able to connect their passion for the helping profession with the responsibility to reduce stigma and help clients take ownership of their own health and safety.


12:45-1:00 PM | Virtual training room opens
1:00-1:10 PM   | Welcome & introductions & check-in activity
1:10-1:40 PM   | Unpacking stigma and its impact on vulnerable communities
1:40-2:05 PM   | The harm reduction philosophy
2:05-2:10 PM   | Break
2:10-2:40 PM   | Harm reduction principles; Goals, limitations, and outcomes
2:40-3:00 PM   | Harm reduction intervention strategies
3:00-3:15 PM   | Review, Q&A

Learning objectives
When attendees return to the workplace, they will be able to:

  • Define stigma and explain its impact on people who use drugs or engage in other risky behavior
  • Identify at least two ways you engage in daily harm reduction practice
  • Name three strategies to help individuals decrease risk-related harm

Target Audience: Social service providers and helping professionals with direct client contact, clinical supervisors, agency administrators, and policy-makers.
Social Work Practice Level: This course is appropriate for beginner and intermediate BSW/MSW learners.
Content Level: This course covers beginning and intermediate level material.
Course Delivery Format: Live webinar
Interactivity: This course will offer real-time polling, group discussion prompts, and 15 minutes of Q&A time.​​​​​​​
LSW/LCSW Continuing Education Credit: 2 CE Credits
Fees: $20 general registration; additional $5 for registration with LSW/LCSW CE credit.

Registration includes access to the live event and recording, PDF of slides, and relevant training tip sheets/resources.

Session Facilitators:

Andrew Spiers, LSW is the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Pathways to Housing PA’s Housing First University. Andrew joined Pathways in early 2018 and served as an Assistant Team Leader and Team Leader before launching Housing First University in October 2019. Andrew holds a Master of Social Service from Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, where he concentrated in Community Practice, Policy, & Advocacy. He has taught Human Services and Sociology courses as an adjunct professor at Harcum College and conducted trainings and workshops all over the country on Housing First, harm reduction, and affirming care for LGBTQ+ communities.

Ryan Villagran, MSW LSW joined Housing First University in June 2021 as a Training Specialist. Ryan holds a Master of Social Work from Temple University with a concentration in Communities & Policy. His clinical background includes delivering psychiatric rehabilitation services in the mental health recovery model at a Community Integrated Recovery Center. Ryan also developed and coordinated a training program in a university setting for social workers serving transitional-aged youth and later taught a Human Behavior in the Social Environment course for graduate social work students. Ryan is involved in organizing efforts around ending mass incarceration and believes in the power of our collective imagination to dream of a better future centered around the most vulnerable members of our community.


ACE approval statement: Housing First University: a program of Pathways to Housing PA, #1759, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Housing First University: a program of Pathways to Housing PA maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 1/12/2022-1/12/2025. Social workers completing this course receive 2 clinical continuing education credits.​​​​​​​

Housing First University, a program of Pathways to Housing PA, can provide continuing education credits to licensed social workers in 48 of the 50 U.S. states and all 13 Canadian provinces. Due to current regulations, CE credits cannot be offered to social workers in the states of New Jersey or New York. If you are not a Licensed Social Worker, please check with your board of accreditation to ensure this training meets your licensing needs.