Listen: a drug users' union is reimagining public health in the South

Louise, the National Director of the Urban Survivors Union. Photo by Kat Bawden.

As opioid overdoses skyrocket across the country, some of the highest mortality rates are in the South, where state laws pose significant barriers to safer drug use. In North Carolina, a bill to legalize syringe exchanges—programs that swap out used syringes for clean ones—has stalled in the Senate despite widespread support, even from law enforcement. In Scalawag’s debut podcast, Kat Bawden takes us inside the Urban Survivor’s Union, a support network and advocacy group for drug users which practices harm reduction, a controversial but inarguably effective approach to dealing with addiction.

Kat Bawden is a journalist, photographer, and videographer with degrees in public health and documentary journalism. She has worked as a community organizer, teacher, and farmer, and lived in the South for 7 years before recently relocating to Los Angeles.