Darke County begins twice-a-month program

Darke County, just north of Dayton, will start a syringe exchange program next month to prevent people who inject drugs from contracting HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases.

The Darke County program — called Xchange — will operate out of Family Health Services, a federally qualified health center that serves poor residents of the 53,000-resident county just north of Dayton. s poor. The local newspaper reports that “XChange opens Oct. 12, and will run every month on the second and fourth Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Family Health Dental Clinic, 5735 Meeker Road, Greenville.”

The new program is the latest expansion in Ohio’s growing effort to provide sterile needles and syringes to people who inject opioids, meth, steroids or other drugs. Darke will be the 17th Ohio county to start a syringe program.

An updated map of Ohio’s syringe programs (counties and cities) can be found in a .pdf version here.

Lorain County (near Cleveland) has approved a syringe program, but it has not yet opened. Licking County (east of Columbus) is considering a program, too. To support the county, Harm Reduction Ohio will hold an educational forum September 12th in Newark to explain how syringe programs work and potential benefits.

In all, about a dozen Ohio counties are considering starting syringe programs, which could mean more than 25 of Ohio’s 88 counties have programs by the end of 2019.

Syringe programs — sometimes called “needle exchanges” — started in 1983 and have been shown to reduce problems such as the spread of infectious disease, overdose death and litter from dirty needles.

More “needle exchanges” on way

The Ohio legislature legalized local syringe programs in 2015 when approved by local Boards of Health. Previously, three syringe programs operated in Ohio under the state constitution’s home rule authority allowing action if a public health emergency was declared.

Ohio syringe exchanges are paid for using a mix of private and local government funds. The state provides no money. However, the Ohio Department of Health recently moved to let federal funds for HIV Prevention flow to Ohio’s syringe programs starting in 2019.

Every Ohio syringe program is different. Hamilton County (Cincinnati) operates a mobile exchange that serves three counties. Canton’s program operates for two hours on a Friday afternoon from the health department’s downtown office. In Columbus, Equitas Health runs the Safe Point program from one of its downtown buildings.

In November, Harm Reduction Ohio and the Ohio State University College of Public Health will bring together the state’s syringe programs for the first time in an event aimed at existing programs and counties considering starting programs. Details on the November 28-29 gathering in Columbus will be released soon.


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