2023 Awards for Achievement in Drug Policy Reform

The biennial awards for achievement in drug policy reform recognize the accomplishments and commitment of people and organizations who have done outstanding drug policy reform work. The awards are given every other year at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Any individual may make nominations, and awards may be given to an individual, several individuals, and/or an organization.

This year, the Drug Policy Alliance is pleased to announce the following winners:


The Norman E. Zinberg Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine

This award recognizes medical and treatment experts who see beyond politics and make influential contributions to the fields of science and medicine.

Jamie Favaro and NextDistro team

Jamie Favaro and NEXT Distro 

Jamie Favaro has been working in the field of harm reduction since 2001. Jamie was the founder and Executive Director of Washington Heights CORNER Project which began as a direct action response to drug user health needs in Northern Manhattan. Jamie later managed the Injection Drug Users Health Alliance, a coalition of 14 syringe exchange programs based in New York City, and also worked as a strategic expansion consultant in the field of harm reduction. Previous to founding NEXT Distro, Jamie was the Senior Advisor for Strategy and Special Projects at Harm Reduction Coalition.

Founded in 2017, NEXT Distro is the country's first online and mail-based harm reduction program. Through pioneering a unique hub-and-spoke model of harm reduction services, NEXT and affiliated partners have formed the first national harm reduction service delivering free supplies by mail to households in over 80% of counties across the United States.


Award for Achievement in the Field of Community Safety

This award is given to those who are building resilient, supportive, and safe communities by promoting non-punitive solutions redefining public safety for marginalized communities.

Drug User Liberation Front

DULF is a community coalition formed to provide tangible solutions to BC's overdose crisis. Regulating the drug market through community-led compassion clubs is the most accessible way of providing immediate safe supply.


The Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship

This award recognizes scholars, like Alfred Lindesmith, whose personal courage and quality of published research constitute a source of rational inspiration for all who labor in drug policy scholarship.

Alex Kral

Alex Kral 

Alex H. Kral, a Distinguished Fellow at the nonprofit RTI International, is an epidemiologist with expertise in community-based research with urban poor populations and drug policy. His policy and evaluation research has included syringe services programs, overdose education and naloxone distribution programs, supervised consumption site programs, and drug decriminalization policy. He is currently the principal investigator and co-investigator on several National Institute on Drug Abuse, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Arnold Ventures supported studies of the relationship between substance use, criminal legal involvement, infectious diseases and overdose, and federal and state drug policies. He has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, is regularly interviewed by journalists in print, podcast, and visual media, and provides testimony in local, State, and Federal legislatures.

Caty Simon

Caty Simon 

Caty Simon has spent 20 years in the low-income rights, psychiatric survivors’ rights, sex workers’ rights, and drug users union movements. She is a leadership team member of and a sex worker liaison for National Survivors Union (NSU), the United States national drug users union. Simon is also a founding co-organizer and co-executive director of Whose Corner Is It Anyway, a Western MA harm reduction, mutual aid, and organizing group by and for low-income, street, and survival sex workers who use opioids and/or stimulants and/or experience housing insecurity. She is Narrative Development Director at NC Survivors Union, the flagship affiliate group of NSU, leading Narcofeminism Storyshare, a project reducing stigma and disrupting stereotypes against people who use drugs through collaborative autobiographical story development and stakeholder training. From 2013 to 2020, Simon was co-editor of Tits and Sass (titsandsass.com), a seminal media outlet by and for sex workers which was featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Jezebel, Gawker, and the New Inquiry, to name a few. She is first author of a commentary in the International Journal of Drug Policy on union members’ experiences as drug user organizers doing community driven research (CDR) and an editorial in a health justice and overdose crisis supplemental issue of the American Journal of Public Health, “The methadone manifesto: treatment experiences and policy recommendations from methadone patient activists.” She has extensive experience as a research and intervention consultant representing people with living experience of drug use and drug treatment, and has worked with the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine, the COVID-19 and Substance Use Data Collaborative, the Baystate Hospital Emergency Department, the UMass Chan Medical School, the National Drug Early Warning System, JBS International Inc., the University of Kentucky’s Department of Behavioral Science, and the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, among others. In 2022, Simon served on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s harm reduction steering committee, defining harm reduction and its principles, precepts, and metrics for the federal agency, a process which resulted in a harm reduction framework document recently released for public comment. 

Gideon Lasco

Gideon Lasco

Gideon Lasco is a physician, medical anthropologist, and drug policy scholar based in Manila, Philippines. He is senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman's Department of Anthropology and research fellow at Hong Kong University's Centre for Criminology. Since 2011, he has been doing ethnographic and qualitative research on drug issues in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and has used his research and writing to critique and challenge the drug wars in his country and region. He was editor of Drugs and Philippines Society, an edited volume which features critical perspectives on drug use and drug policy in the country, and author of the Asia chapter in the 2020 and 2022 editions of the Global State of Harm Reduction. For his scholarship, he received the inaugural ISSDP Research Excellence Award in 2022.


The Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action

This award honors citizens who make democracy work in the difficult area of drug law and policy reform.

Sam Rivera and OnPoint Staff

Sam Rivera and OnPoint NYC

Sam Rivera has 31 years of progressive experience in social services. His primary focus of expertise lies in Criminal Justice/Reentry, HIV/AIDS, Harm Reduction, and Mental Health. He currently serves as the Executive Director of OnPoint NYC, a harm reduction organization that provides services to active drug users and sex workers in NYC. As an Afro-Taino, Sam has dedicated his professional career to ameliorating the harms associated with the War on Drug Users, racism/sexism, structural inequality, and mass incarceration. Due to his dedication to this work, Sam Rivera was recently recognized as one of Time100's Most Influential People of 2023.

OnPoint NYC is a long-standing community-based organization, with deep roots in East Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Bronx, trusted by the community to provide harm reduction services since 1992.  Originally New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE), we were founded in 1992 as one of New York State’s first legal syringe exchanges and a direct successor to both ACT UP’s radical grassroots efforts to stem the rising tide of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the Young Lords and Black Panthers revolutionary holistic substance use treatment programs run by community for community. In 2022, NYHRE and Washington Heights Corner Project (founded in 2007) merged to create OnPoint NYC.

OnPoint NYC’s mission is to improve the health and quality of life of PWUD and people who engage in sex work (PWESW), with concerted outreach to and services for people who identify as Black and/or Latino/Hispanic and people at risk of contracting or living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). We provide services and vigorously advocate for the resources, tools, and support needed to combat stigma and embrace people who use drugs to participate meaningfully in society, instead of pushing them to the margins. The organization was founded as and continues to operate as a peer-led model, where many participants become volunteers and then staff members.

On November 30, 2021, OnPoint NYC made history and became the first organization in the United States to open and operate publicly recognized and sanctioned Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs), which are health facilities that include rooms where people can consume pre-obtained substances under professional supervision.