NHPHA Member Spotlight: Kerry Nolte

Kerry is currently a professor at UNH but her professional life began as a family nurse practitioner working in a community health setting. She completed a PhD in nursing, focusing on HIV prevention. During her undergraduate studies, she did clinical work with a syringe exchange in Boston. At the time, when discussion for Syringe Service Programs (SSP) legislation began in New Hampshire, Kerry became involved in advocacy surrounding harm reduction and syringe service. “I was very happy seeing the conversation regarding SSP moving forward in New Hampshire.”

While doing advocacy work for SSP legislation, Kerry was able to connect with partners who were also interested in SSP. In light of the NH overdose rate, when the legislation SB 234 came through, Kerry worked with others to create a coalition named the New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition (NHHRC). Afterwards, that group worked on starting an SSP, Hand Up Health Service in the Seacoast. Kerry serves as the Medical Coordinator for Hand Up Health Services and also serves as the chair for NHHRC. For Kerry, the most rewarding part of working for the Syringe Service has been watching the trust grow within the community.  

“A year and a half later seeing how many people connect with the service is very motivating,” she says. Hand Up actually sees about 100 visits per month. “It’s the connection they have with the volunteers that makes a difference”. Even though Kerry sees some push back for harm reduction work, she also sees a growing number of volunteers stepping up to do the work with a syringe exchange program. Hand Up recently was called to the safety counsel in Rochester, and the deputy chief of police cited a 50% drop in overdose deaths and overdose calls in the city.

For the future, as a professor she would like to see a workforce that is prepared to address substance misuse and all the social determinants of health, to enhance research for the needs of the people in New Hampshire who use drugs and mobilize the services they need to connect with. “Harm Reduction and Syringe Service isn’t what I set out to do but it is the most rewarding work I do.”

Kerry is currently researching the following topics:

  • Evaluating the use of harm reduction approaches to engage people who inject drugs in reducing drug related harms 
  • Understanding what positive engagement with a healthcare provider means to people who inject drugs
  • Examining positive engagement strategies and harm reduction approaches in hospital based clinical care 
  • Measuring the health system impacts of more effectively engaging people who inject drugs with harm reduction approaches
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