Darke County begins twice-a-month program
Zanesville program added to list

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

Harm Reduction Ohio also added a small program at the Muskingum County health department in Zanesville to our list of syringe programs in Ohio.

With these additions, 18 of Ohio’s 88 counties now have syringe programs. Ohio has 16 separate programs. (Hamilton County’s mobile program operates in three counties.) And the syringe programs operate at a total of 23 sites.

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.

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 and will open soon. Harm Reduction Ohio is putting together a proposal to open a syringe program in Licking County, just east of Columbus. Harm Reduction Ohio held an educational forum in Licking County seat of Newark last month about syringe programs.

Syringe programs — sometimes called “needle exchanges” — have been shown to reduce heath 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 they are approved by local Boards of Health. Previously, only three syringe programs operated in Ohio. They were permitted under the Ohio constitution’s home rule authority that allowed 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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