Harm reduction was introduced in many countries of Central and Eastern Europe after 1995. The need for communication and sharing of experience and ideas was obvious. In April 1997, in Paris, delegates of the International Harm Reduction Conference from Central and Eastern Europe were determined to find a way to unite harm reduction activists in the region.
Immediately after the Paris conference, some of the delegates discussed this idea with Jean Paul Grund, then the Director of the International Harm Reduction Development (IHRD) program at Open Society Institute (OSI). With lightning speed, a founding meeting was set up in June 1997 in Warsaw, Poland. The 18 participants of the meeting formed a mission statement and elected the Steering Committee of 9 members. Leading experts in the harm reduction field from many countries attended that meeting. Jean Paul Grund, Glenn Backes, Marek Beniowski, Karl Dehne, Judit Honti, Lev Khodakevich, Dmitri Ostrowski, and others full of great ideas met in a hot, cramped room, excitedly talking all at once and trying to come to consensus on what was to become our Network. By the end of three days of debates, the Network with its initial name, Central and Eastern European Harm Reduction Network (CEEHRN), was born.
In June 2000, a new Steering Committee was elected for the period of two years. All Network members took part in the elections. In September 2000, Dr Emilis Subata was elected as Coordinator of the Network and replaced Dr Judit Honti who was Coordinator from 1997-2000. He was followed in this position by Anya Sarang, Catalina Iliuta, Kaleria Lavrova, Dasha Ocheret and David Otiashvili.
In 2001, the Steering Committee established the Secretariat of the Network and formed its Founders’ Committee, which then established the Secretariat in Vilnius, Lithuania.