More than half syringe programs now closed in Ohio.
Cutbacks to programs that remain open.
The Canton syringe program, one of the state’s best and friendliest, will close indefinitely because of covid-19, continuing a severe scaling back of programs designed to protect the health of people who use drugs.
“The decision was made that for the safety of participants, the safety of staff, and the safety of the program that we halt the process until covid has begun to dwindle,” says David McCartney of the Canton Health Department.
As of today, a majority of the state’s programs have closed because of the pandemic. Programs that remain open have cut back hours and services. Syringe service programs, sometimes called “needle exchanges,” supply sterile equipment to people who inject drugs to prevent HIV, Hepatitis C, and other health problems. (Read the full list below.)
Several syringe programs are exploring the possibility of online syringe programs which would deliver sterile supplies by mail. However, this has not yet come to fruition, as far as Harm Reduction Ohio knows.
CLOSED: Athens County (Athens): The syringe exchange program, operated from Glouster by the Athens City-County Health Department, is suspended until the tentative date of April 15.It normally operates from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
OPEN (reduced locations): Brown County (Georgetown): Prevention Point has closed their Ripley site, but their Georgetown location (826 Mt. Orab Pike) remains open. The doors are locked, and only three patients are permitted at one time. Kathy Wright, nurse in Brown County, said extras supplies will be provided on their normal hours (Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.), and the program is also going to remain accessible by appointment. To contact Prevention Point for an appointment, call 937-378-6892.
APPOINTMENT ONLY (starting March 30): Butler County (Middletown): The Exchange program is providing comprehensive updates at their Facebook page. Beginning March 30, supplies will be available by appointment only, and walk-ups will not be accepted. One month worth of supplies will be provided at each appointment to minimize contact, and all appointments will take place at 184 E. McMillan Street, Cincinnati. Please visit their Facebook page for more information and instructions on how to schedule: https://www.facebook.com/hc.xchange/
OPEN: Clark County (Springfield): The syringe program, based in Springfield, considered providing extra supplies to participants, as other Ohio programs have done, but will not do so at this time. The weekly program currently remains in operation.
OPEN (reduced locations): Cuyahoga County (Cleveland): Cleveland’s syringe program van, in operation for more than two decades, is now off the road. However, the syringe program is still operating at Circle Health clinic at 12201 Euclid Avenue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program reports making 27 to 33 exchanges per day during the last two weeks.
OPEN: Darke County (Greenville): The Xchange, run by the Family Health Center, is still operating every second and fourth Friday of the month.
OPEN (reduced hours): Franklin County (Columbus): SafePoint in Columbus will be open Friday (March 20) and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until the program serves 70 people on either day. Next week, SafePoint will be open two days, down from four. The program will be open Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until it serves 70 people on either of those days. The program will provide Narcan kits each day, plus safe injection and safe sex materials.
For safety, before being allowed into the lobby, participants will be asked questions to determine COVID-19 risk. Only 3 participants will be allowed the lobby at a time. SafePoint will use its quick exchange window to get people in and out quickly. If somebody does not pass the screening questions, they will be provided at the door a mask, gloves, COVID-19 information, plus a Narcan kit and 20 syringes.
CLOSED: Gallia County (Gallipolis): Gallia County, an important syringe program in the southeastern Appalachian area of Ohio, has closed its doors for the length of the state’s “stay-at-home” order.
OPEN: Greene County (Xenia): The exchange is still operating as usual but using precautions such as masks and hand sanitizer.
APPOINTMENT ONLY:Hamilton County (Cincinnati): The county’s syringe program is providing harm reduction supplies — sterile syringes, condoms, naloxone, etc. — by appointment only at the health department’s office at 250 William Howard Taft in Cincinnati. To get what’s needed to stay heathy, people who use drugs should call 513-316-7725 or email ExchangeProject@hamilton-co.org.
(Previously reported) Hamilton County Public Health’s mobile syringe service program is cutting back sites and services but keeping its program open for now. The Fairfield Mercy Hospital site in Butler County is closed. The program’s hours will be expanded from three to four hours at its other Butler County site, in Middletown.
The syringe program at Caracole is closed. Elsewhere, Hamilton County said it will change the way it provides services. Rather than operate inside a large RV-style vehicle that can function as a mini-medical clinic, the county will now use a small van and have program workers stand outdoors delivering pre-packaged kits of 35 syringes.
CLOSED: Jefferson County (Steubenville): The Family Recovery Center syringe exchange program in Steubenville is suspended indefinitely due to a lack of supplies. Ashley Wilson, R.N. said that they hope to re-open as soon as more supplies become available. It normally operates on the first and third Fridays of each month from 1 to 3 p.m.
CLOSED: Lorain County (Wellington): The Lorain County syringe program at a church in Wellington closed last year in an action unrelated to the COVID-19 virus. The county does not have a syringe program at this time.
CLOSED: Lucas County (Toledo): The Northwest Ohio Syringe Service (NOSS) program in Toledo was the first program in Ohio to close. It shut its doors on indefinitely on Thursday, March 19. The program, one of the state’s best, had operated three days a week at three different locations.
CLOSED: Marion County (Marion): The Safe Syringe Access and Support syringe exchange program is suspended indefinitely, according to nursing staff in Marion. Appointments will not be available.
CLOSED: Muskingum County (Zanesville): The SafePoint program in Zanesville is closed indefinitely. Tawny Putcher of the Muskingum County Board of Health said it was unclear when they would be able to re-open, but they do plan on re-opening.
CLOSED: Scioto County (Portsmouth): The Portsmouth City Health Department has closed its syringe program until April 7 because of COVID-19. Before it closed, the program gave participants two weeks worth of supplies rather than one week. In 2019, Scioto County had the highest Drug overdose death rate of any county in Ohio history.
CLOSED: Stark County (Canton): The city’s SWAP syringe program is closed until further notice. The last syringe exchange was held Friday, March 27. “The decision was made that for the safety of participants, the safety of staff, and the safety of the program that we halt the process until COVID has begun to dwindle,” says David McCartney of the health department’s nursing division. “This is hard for us and we apologize to our clients. We will be posting locations where Narcan is still accessible.”
OPEN: Summit County (Akron): Reports Public Health Coordinator Angeles Kaiser: “All three syringe exchange sites are still up and going. We are giving pre-packed bags of supplies that should last people 2 weeks. We are not requiring (but are encouraging) people to bring back their needles. We are also voluntarily collecting phone numbers and addresses in the event that we need to do street outreach or contact them. Our goal is to keep supplies coming to the participants, reduce the number of people that are together at one time and reduce the amount of time people have to be out and about.
Syringe service program background
Harm Reduction Ohio tracks (and supports) the state’s syringe program. Click here for a list of Ohio’s syringe programs. The list has not been updated for changes related to COID-19.
Syringe service programs, sometimes called “needle exchanges,” are an important lifeline to people who use drugs. The programs supply sterile syringes and needles to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus. They also have been shown to reduce overdose death and increase the number of people entering treatment.
Twenty of Ohio’s 88 counties have syringe programs. The number has expanded rapidly in the last three years because of the overdose epidemic and outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis, mostly in southern Ohio.
Harm Reduction Ohio held the state’s first syringe program “best practices” conference in November 2018 and tentatively plans to hold a second in November 2020. The first conference was held at the Columbus Foundation, at the invitation of Amy Acton, M.D., then a program manager at the foundation and now director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Please email updates on Ohio syringe programs to firstname.lastname@example.org