THRA founders, from left: Dean LeMire, Mark Kinzly, Kevin Irwin, Joy Rucker, Charles Thibodeaux.
The Texas Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) emerged in early 2019 in response to unprecedented opioid overdose rates and apparent statewide need for harm reduction policy advocacy, education, and capacity-building for direct services with people impacted by substance use, overdose, HIV, hepatitis, and sex work.
THRA is a resource for all community sectors and organizations seeking evidence-informed pathways to improvement of conditions and outcomes related to drug use and related activity. We operate a mobile direct services program in the Austin area (Austin OPS) that provides overdose prevention education, naloxone, and linkage to same-day medicine-based treatment for opioid use disorders.
THRA is a registered nonprofit in Texas gratefully receiving fiscal sponsorship from HIV Education & Prevention Project of Alameda County, 501c3.
What is Harm Reduction?
Addressing people and their goals in real time...
Harm Reduction refers to strategies, practices, and interventions that address and improve actual conditions of drug use and related risky activity. Harm Reduction as a social movement and a set of principles seeks to center the people most impacted by harms in the design and delivery of strategies, programs, practices, and interventions intended for them.
Harm Reduction can serve as a framework for understanding and addressing drug use and related risky activity that joins science, compassion, and justice in the twin objectives of reducing negative consequences (such as death, disease, and isolation) and empowering impacted populations in their own care and trajectories.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lori Holleran Steiker, Ph.D.
THRA seeks to grow our board and committees membership with an eye for lived experience of harms and resilience in the current environment of drug and health policy. We also seek experts in the legal, criminal justice, health systems, and legislative realms of service to advise or join our leadership to further our mission.
Email us at info@harmreductionTX.org
Or use this contact form for convenience.
Joy Rucker, Executive Director
Joy Rucker is originally from New Bedford, Ma, a small fishing town south of Boston. Joy begin her career in HIV Prevention as an outreach worker in Boston; she was part of the first outreach team to target injecting drug users, encouraging people to get tested for HIV and to not share syringes, years before funding or formal services for people who inject drugs were available. Recognizing the growth of HIV support groups that largely excluded women, people of color, and people who injected drugs, Joy dedicated her time and life to advocating, creating programs, and fighting for all injectors to access to services without barriers.
Joy moved to San Francisco and began working at the Black Coalition on AIDS (BCA), as the program director for a transitional housing program for homeless drug using African Americans -- Rafikiki House. During her tenure at BCA, Rafikiki House was awarded the Special Projects of National Significance from HUD. Rafikiki House was awarded a contract to train other providers across the country on how to develop similar Housing-First-style programs.
Joy worked for Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and was introduced to Harm Reduction as model of service. While at CSH, she and a team developed the first Harm Reduction Housing training. Also during that time, she became a trainer for the National Harm Reduction Coalition in New York. After leaving CSH, Joy began work as the Executive Director of the HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County, also known as Casa Segura.
After ten years in that role, Joy moved to Hawaii and created Housing First programs on the islands of Maui and Honolulu.
Cate Graziani, Policy & Operations Director
Growing up in eastern NC, Cate first got involved as a teen crisis hotline volunteer to help young people who were having a hard time like her. Then in college at UNC Chapel Hill, Cate volunteered as a rape crisis counselor and became politically active when she joined campus reproductive justice campaigns. At UNC, she earned her BA in Sociology, with a minor in Social and Economic Justice, determined to fight for social change.
Cate moved to Austin in 2011. After earning her MPAff/MSSW from the University of Texas, Cate worked as a policy fellow with Mental Health America of Texas and helped pass SB 1462, the bill that expanded access to naloxone across Texas in 2015. In 2016, Cate was awarded a Fulbright research award to study Portugal’s world-renowned drug decriminalization policy. Over nine months, she interviewed policymakers, academics, outreach workers, and people who inject drugs, learning from their public health approach to drug use so she could become a stronger advocate at home.
Cate continues her education and passion at THRA, working with an all-star team to prevent overdoses, decriminalize public health issues, and fight to end the racist War on Drugs. Before joining THRA, Cate was a member of the criminal justice team at Grassroots Leadership for four years, where she led their work calling for divestments from the criminal legal system and reinvestments in community public health.
Cate also runs Broads and Boards, a woodworking co-op for Austin-area women.
Joe Martinez, Outreach Worker
Joe is a lifelong resident of Austin, Texas where he was raised by a single parent - his beautiful mother Juana - with his two younger sisters. Joe graduated from Johnson High and his hobbies include artwork, sports and playing bingo.
"I am very excited to be part of the great team here at THRA, to be able to give back to our community, and to help save lives because your life matters. I enjoy going out to the field and reaching out to anyone that I can help and listen to. I watched the destruction that drugs have caused in our community and want to be someone that brings hope to those that often feel hopeless, and to be able to put a smile on y'alls faces and heart. It's a pleasure to do outreach work and make a difference in someone's life. God bless y'all!"
Pamela Bryant, Recovery Coach
Pamela Bryant is a native of Dallas, Texas. She is currently working on her Associates Degree in Business Administration at Austin Community College. She is also matriculating at Agape Christian Institute in preparation to be ordained in Christian ministry.
Ms. Bryant was formerly incarcerated, a woman in sustained recovery from substance use disorder, and a woman who had suffered the trauma and overcome the barriers and stigma of mental illness. She has been working in the re-entry space for several years through a faith-based prison ministry that she founded in 2014 called Walking by Faith Ministry (WBFM) and through the prison ministry in her local church.
Since her release from prison, Ms. Bryant has committed herself to be a responsible mother, sister and grandmother. Ms. Bryant is the primary caregiver to her two adult sisters who suffer from mental health issues, and is a caring and loving mother and grandmother, she models what it means to be a God-fearing woman and a responsible member of society.
Gilberto Pérez, Director
Gilberto is a queer, chicanx native of El Paso, TX who is also in recovery. Since 2012, Gilberto has worked with people who use drugs (PWUD), primarily along the U.S.-Mexico Border Region; intersecting social equitable prevention and intervention strategies for substance use disorder, infectious diseases, and mental health. He has a background in psychology and public health, earning his Masters in Public Health from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2020.
Gilberto began his career as an intern with the only HIV prevention program in El Paso that served PWUD, where he encouraged people to get tested for HIV and seek substance use disorder and medicated assisted treatment. Realizing that abstinence/treatment-based models do not align with everyone’s need, Gilberto began a harm reduction movement in El Paso. As a result, Gilberto formed the first binational syringe service program and naloxone dispensary for PWUD. Furthermore, he has developed and led different community-based participatory research programs that have shaped the way community organizations deliver harm reduction services.
Gilberto represents and empowers gender, sexual, racial, and ethnic minorities by disrupting the status quo and influencing systems change.