Who is Olive Branch?


Olive Branch Ministry is a faith-based harm reduction outreach organization, based in the Foothills of NC and was founded in 2009 by Michelle Mathis and Karen Lowe becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2015.

Olive Branch partners with local human service organizations, faith communities, hospitals, mental and public health agencies, and private corporations and citizens to work with those in need of harm reduction services. 

Our desire is to extend hope and extend life through non judgmental interactions with those we are called to serve.

What is Harm Reduction?

The following information is cited from Harm Reduction Coalition:

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

However, HRC considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice:

  • Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
  • Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
  • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
  • Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
  • Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
  • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
  • Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.



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Olive Branch Ministry partnered with the Gaston Substance Controlled Coalition and Faith Fighting Addiction to host an International Overdose Awareness Day Event (IOAD) for 2019 in Gaston County, N.C.  People at the event were given index cards to write encouraging words and affirmations to give to those who experience overdose and have been resuscitated by Narcan/Naloxone. Once the participants wrote on their cards, they were asked to come forward and hang them on the Tree of HOPE. The Gaston County Opioid Overdose Response Team (OORT) is responsible for getting the cards to the individuals.  

Check out this video to get a glimpse of our community honoring somebody's someone!

Just recently, the OORT mailed some of the purple index cards with encouraging letters to the folks who have been resuscitated by Narcan/Naloxone in our community.

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