“Leaving people untreated is murder.” That’s how celebrity doctor and addiction expert Drew Pinksy talks about homelessness in California. If you turn in any direction on a Bay Area street, you’ll see what Pinsky sees—a human tragedy compounded by substance abuse and mental health issues.

Over the last few decades, a new treatment approach called harm reduction has gained popularity. Harm reduction emphasizes education and mitigation strategies, especially for substance abuse. But when harm reduction programs falter because of their poor mix with other government programs or are undermined by their very practitioners, they can hinder recovery efforts at the peril of the clients and the public.

The Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates harm reduction, describes several tenets of the approach, including improving access to drugs that reverse opioid overdoses, such as naloxone, protecting individuals who report drug use to emergency services, including self-reporting and expanding sterile-syringe access in order to lower transmission of infectious diseases.