GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Health Department announced Monday it has collected and destroyed more than 10,000 contaminated needles in its syringe exchange program.
According to health department nurses, the department began a syringe exchange program aimed at harm reduction and disease prevention in August 2015. The program serves as an outreach to a community of injection drug users and their friends and family. It promotes education and safety throughout the community.
The syringe exchange program takes dirty needles and provides clean ones in equal ration in an attempt to decrease contaminated needle use.
The program also provides nursing consultations, referrals and sessions with a drug addiction counselor at the department. The department also provides clients opportunities to receive needed vaccines, STD and HIV screens and get information in regard to the reproductive health clinic in the department. Clients can receive training with kits containing naloxone, a drug used to combat opioid overdose, as well as a take-home kit.
Nurses say the program has, so far, served 177 clients, and provided services for 799 visits. From those, 10,000 contaminated needles have been destroyed so as to not be found in public spaces. Twelve people have entered rehabilitation treatment because of the program and 15 more are reported to have scheduled treatment appointments.
Funding provided by the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services helped purchase nasal naxolone kits for the health department’s use. The state’s Project DAWN also has provided funding in an attempt to furnish more naloxone kits. So far grants have provided 74 kits to be distributed to the public.
A donation of products from Kaleo Inc. was also made the to health department for additional community resources. One hundred twenty-four kits have thus far been provided. Local police, nurses and EMS members have been trained in the use of naloxone to prevent overdose death. Fruth Pharmacy, Master’s Pharmaceuticals and private donors have all reportedly helped the SEC program.
“As a health department, we were excited to be able to provide outreach to a group struck with health disparity and often reluctant to seek treatment services,” said one department nurse. “We feel that the exchange is a productive component in preventing the spread of disease in our community.”
Health department representatives have reported that Gallia County hepatitis C cases have decreased. Supposedly, 123 were reported in 2014 to 114 cases in 2015. Health professionals report that hepatitis C reports are on the rise across most of the country, so any reduction in reports can likely be taken as a good sign.
For more information, the Gallia County Health Department can be reached at (740) 441-2018 or visited on Jackson Pike.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.