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Reducing alcohol’s ills - HAMS offers help for lives damaged by drinking

There’s a new Brooklyn start-up non-profit dedicated not to stop drinking, but to lesson the harm that alcohol causes.

Dubbed HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support), the organization is a free peer-led support group for people who wish to reduce the harm in their lives associated with the use of alcohol or other mood-altering substances.

Kenneth Anderson, a Wisconsin native who founded HAMS and serves as its executive director, said he came up with the idea for the program after working as a volunteer at a needle exchange program for drug addicts in Minneapolis.

The idea was you couldn’t stop drug addicts from using the drugs, but you can make it safer for them and the public at large, he said.

“It really applies to people who drink too much in you can be safer when you drink. Even if you don’t cut down, it’s better to be safer than not safe,” he said.

Anderson said, for example, if people who drink and drive participate in HAMS, they are encouraged to leave their car keys at home and take the subway.

Any positive change is encouraged, he said.

“I’m a person who has changed my drinking for the better. I drink about a once a week and that’s enough. There’s other things in the world to do besides drink,” he said.

HAMS also utilizes the Internet for members who can join a chat room and read the organizations 14 elements, which draws from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, but with less formality.

“We [Brooklyn] are the head office and because we are, online people from all over the world can join and participate,” said Anderson, adding that HAMS has online members who already joined from such countries as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

HAMS takes the pragmatic stance that some people are simply unwilling or unable to abstain from alcohol and offers them support in either drinking safely or cutting back or both, said Anderson.

Interestingly, Anderson has also sought funding from distillers and breweries who want to promote responsible drinking.

HAMS has also begun a weekly live support group meeting. Currently, that meeting is held at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 139 St. John’s Place in Park Slope.

For further information on HAMS, log onto www.hamsnetwork.org.

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