For this week’s segment of Hometown Heroes, AY About You sits down with Mac Bolt, the operations coordinator with the Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project.
Bolt was born and raised in North Little Rock, where they still live today. Bolt is a lover of gardening, good books, long road trips and talking with friends on their porch.
“I became passionate about social justice issues as a teenager when I began attending Center for Artistic Revolution’s weekly meetings for LGBTQ youth in 2009, and I have been involved in advocacy and organizing efforts ever since,” Bolt says. “I received my Master’s degree in Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service in the Spring of this year. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2017, where I studied anthropology, philosophy and gender studies. Currently, I am studying herbalism in my free time.”
Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project (CAHRP) is a grassroots organization based in the Arkansas Community Organizations building in downtown Little Rock.
“We provide free public health services to prevent overdose deaths and the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C in our community. We also advocate for the end of the War on Drugs, and Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project was created by and for people impacted by drug use,” Bolt explains. “We strive to do this work side-by-side with the people we serve in the spirit of mutual aid and radical compassion.”
Bolt says that CAHRP manages a free confidential helpline that people in Central Arkansas can text to request overdose reversal kits and other resources for safer drug use be delivered directly to them.
“We also have a street outreach program, through which we serve our unhoused neighbors by bringing our services directly to encampments throughout the city of Little Rock,” they say.
Bolt shares more about how CAHRP was founded.
“Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project was founded by my friend, Clay Kasper, in 2018 after a series of overdoses in the Little Rock music scene,” Bolt says. “Seeing how desperate our community was for resources, Clay created a hotline that people in Central Arkansas could text to get naloxone, a medicine that stops opioid overdoses, for free.”
Bolt got involved with CAHRP after attending their first fundraiser on New Years Day in 2018, and was so moved by the work being done that they became involved with the project as a volunteer shortly after.
“Within a few months, I had picked up the responsibility of volunteer co-director, working full time alongside Clay and other volunteers to help develop the program,” Bolt says. “Today, Clay has transitioned onto our Board of Directors and I continue to serve as the operations doordinator.”
Bolt says that stigma is the most difficult part of working in harm reduction.
“It was also difficult to be an entirely volunteer-run project for so long, which is, unfortunately, a struggle that many organizations are familiar with. All of our resources were stored in our homes, and we had to carve time out of every week to manage the helpline, go on deliveries, and fundraise. Doing this work for years on top of your paid job is exhausting, even if it is also very rewarding, and I am so grateful we have grown to a point where we now have paid staff.”
Bolt explains how the pandemic changed the face of operations as they knew it.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we took a few weeks off to educate ourselves about the situation and regroup. We finally concluded that our services were needed now more than ever, and expanded our programs,” Bolt says. “We applied to as many COVID-19 emergency response grants as we could and used the funding to get an office, begin paying staff that had previously been working as volunteers, and develop a street outreach program to better serve our unhoused community members. Since then, we have seen numbers from the CDC showing us that overdose deaths went up tremendously during the pandemic, so I am glad that we decided to take the risk of rapidly expanding in order to meet the urgent needs of our community.”
Bolt hopes that the organization continues to grow and provide crucial resources to our community.
“I have a wide range of interests so I can see myself landing in many fields — perhaps staying in harm reduction, or moving on to work focusing on transformative justice, food justice or climate justice,” Bolt says. “But in my dreams, 5 years from now I am working as an organizational consultant from a small farm. On the farm, I am developing an LGBTQ co-op housing project, and there are tons of cute animals everywhere. I spend my free time tending an herb garden, reading good books and wading in a nearby creek. As a consultant, I would offer my services to a wide range of organizations, with a special passion for co-creating programs that are community and worker-centered, with the intention of developing organizations that embody the values in their mission statements through both community impact and workplace policy. I really hope I get to live this dream someday.”
Bolt shares the many ways that people can get involved in CAHRP.
“Our work would not be possible without the support of our community, so we encourage people to become a monthly sustainer of our work by donating to us. Anyone interested in volunteering can also email us at [email protected]”
Bolt shares that if anyone in Central Arkansas is looking to access CAHRP’s resources, they can text the hotline at 501-438-9158. Anyone in the entire state of Arkansas can also receive a free overdose reversal kit in the mail through our partnership with NEXT Distro by clicking GET NALOXONE at the bottom of the page at this website.