Statement of Commitment to the Principles of Harm Reduction

Westminster places great emphasis on working to empower people to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Founded more than 155 years ago, its present facility, built in 1965, reflects the forward-looking vision of its parishioners and the surrounding Southwest, Washington, D.C. community-at-large. The church’s stated mission is to be an accepting, caring, risk-taking body of Christ open to the message of God in people and places too often rejected and ignored.


With the stated mission as a premise, Westminster formulated and adopted guiding principles of its harm reduction philosophy. Among the guiding principles adopted, the church:

Accepts that illicit (and licit) drug use and high-risk sexual behavior are part of the community and it chooses to work to minimize their harmful effects.

Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, gender and sexual orientation biases, and other social inequities affect people’s capacity for effectively dealing with harmful agents and practices.

Will continue to educate itself to the realities of harm-causing agents, behaviors and practices; recognizing that the type and nature of this harm is ever changing and that only through real understanding can real solutions be discovered. Seeks to establish policies that stress improvement to the quality of community life and the well being of its citizens as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.

Affirms that substance abusers as well as persons undertaking high-risk sexual behaviors are the primary agents for reducing the harm to themselves and the church seeks to empower these individuals to improve the conditions of their lives and their communities.

START at Westminster is a harm reduction, prevention, and awareness initiative.  START is an acronym for Syringe, Training, Advocacy, Resources, and Treatment that reflects the core element of the harm reduction philosophy.  This initiative has been implemented as a formal project since June 8, 2008.  On April 6, 2012 it was approved as a 501(c)(3).



The mission of START at Westminster seeks to reduce the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases by empowering those at risk of infection with the tools, resources and referrals they need to take charge of their health.

START at Westminster

Westminster Presbyterian Church

400 I Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024


P 202.863.8450  |  F 202.484.8544  |  gkerr@startatwestminster.org





website designed by promotions west