ON FEB. 21, Civvies will host a benefit concert featuring a jam-packed lineup of incredible bands like Internet GF, Valley Gals, Yah Wav, Kamiah Young, and Ethel Cain (among others). What’s most important for this show, though, is the organization it’s raising funds for.
Lesli Messinger started No More O.D.'s: A Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition in 2014 after her son died of an overdose of oxycontin in 2005.
”I learned about harm reduction, and at that time we didn’t have naloxone access or 911 law in Georgia when I moved here, so because I ran for Congress in 2012, I got a feel for local politics and state politics,” Messinger tells Connect.
Through her political run, she was able to help with the passage of the 911 Good Samaritan and Naloxone Access law in 2014. That law, in part, allows for the administration naloxone—which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
”You can call 911 if you have a friend who’s overdosing, and no one will get in trouble,” she explains of the law. “Somebody always knows somebody who died simply because nobody wanted to call 911. And with naloxone access, it’s like a third-party prescription. I can give naloxone to someone to give to somebody else.”
From there, Messinger felt compelled to continue on that path, especially given the heroin and fentanyl epidemic that has spread throughout the country. She set out to promote naloxone, educating Savannah and Tybee Island police departments and fire departments and providing them with the tools necessary to help during an overdose situation.
At its core, Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition is about keeping people alive. Messinger encourages people to reach out to her personally—whether it’s users, parents of users, friends of users, etc.
”Tough love, we don’t do anymore. It’s ridiculous. We just want to keep people alive and give them an opportunity to get better. So we’ll sometimes give mothers naloxone, because they don’t want their child to come home from partying, lay down, and not wake up,” she says.
”Being kept alive is very important, so I also give out one-use syringes, where you use it and the needle comes back up so the user can’t infect themselves. And cookers, so that people don’t use bottle caps.”
Messinger has also worked to provide local businesses with the tools they need to help people in need at a moment's notice; Civvies being one of them. The Feb. 21 benefit, which starts at 8 P.M. with a $10 suggested donation, aims to further the reach that SHRC has throughout the community—just as Civvies has continually done for other local organizations over recent years.
With safe use being a priority of harm reduction, Messinger also works to shatter the stigma surrounding addiction and what it means to help someone get better. She’s learned a lot through this vitally important work, as it relates to changing people’s point of view on the realities of loving and caring for someone with an addiction.
”Don’t let them hit bottom” she says.
“Bottom is death. After your child dies, you realize you’d give anything for all of that heartache. It is heartache—finding pills, or getting them out of jail. It’s kind of hard to explain. That is just nothing compared to the grief. I would give anything for all of that. The top priority should be keeping your loved one safe, give them good food, try to keep them healthy, and give them alternatives. Be understanding, and always tell them you love them.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, Lesli Messinger is available at (609) 744-4144 for any help and assistance needed.