Programs find ways to safely adapt to covid-19
See updated list of syringe programs, hours and locations
By Elaine Louden, HRO Public Health Fellow
Ohio’s syringe programs are starting to reopen and resume normal hours after closing or restricting services because of the covid-19 pandemic.
About half of Ohio’s syringe programs closed in March and April because of covid-19. Most others limited hours, locations and services to protect participants and staff from being infected by the coronavirus. Today, at least three syringe programs remain closed – in Athens, Marion and Lorain counties – but others have adapted to allow full or partial re-openings.
On March 18, the Northwest Ohio Syringe Programs (NOSS) in Toledo became the first syringe program to shut down, but is now in the process of reopening its three locations. NOSS re-opened its first location on May 7. A second location will reopen on May 19. The program’s third location will reopen sometime in June. The Lucas County Health Department, which runs the program, is also supplying sterile syringes by appointment at the County Health Department building.
21 counties in Ohio have syringe service programs, sometimes called “needle exchanges”. The programs supply sterile syringes and services to people who inject drugs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, especially HIV and Hepatitis C, caused by sharing needles.
The covid-19 threat has been a serious challenge to syringe programs, which usually operate with many people in a confined space. In response, syringe programs across the state have put into place a range of thoughtful, often creative, changes to keep programs going while keeping participants and staff safe.
Staff are wearing masks and other personal protective equipment at every location. Most programs are also checking temperatures and screening clients for symptoms of covid-19 prior to entry. Some programs have moved to an appointment model to reduce the clustering of program participants. Many are offering pre-packaged bags with sterile syringes and other needs, so transactions can occur quickly.
The Portsmouth City Health Department’s program has switched to an appointment system to limit the number of people getting syringes at any one time. Abby Spears, program coordinator, says, “we are going to continue the appointment process and look for it to be in place for some time.”
Many programs have also started to think more broadly about the health needs of people who use drugs and have added face masks, personal hygiene kits, food assistance and other items to what is given to clients.
From the Gallia County Health Department, Public Health Nurse Joni Ferrell reports that, “syringes, naloxone, condoms, alcohol wipes, and cotton prepackaged for the individuals by collecting the data when they call for the appointments. Packets that include resources are given to every client during the appointment,”.
Syringe programs in Greene, Lucas, and Jefferson counties are working on implementing mail order naloxone delivery programs to ensure that clients who cannot make it in still have access to harm reduction tools. (Harm Reduction Ohio also operates an online ordering/mail order delivery programs statewide. Orders can be placed here.)
Update on 5/20/20: Hamilton County Public Health has currently put their mobile syringe program on hold at their Clermont and Fairfield locations due to seeing small numbers of participants, along with the desire, “to limit exposure and travel,” for their workers. Harm Reduction Ohio has contacted Clermont county to see if alternatives will be provided, but has not yet heard back.
Update on 5/15/20: Butler county’s Regional Exchange Collaborative is providing services at reduced locations (Middletown only) in Butler county. At this time, Hamilton County’s Exchange program is not servicing locations outside of their county.
Of the three syringe programs that remained closed, two — in Athens and Lorain — are trying to find ways to re-open. The Marion syringe program expects to remain closed until the end of the pandemic because covid-19 is consuming the time of its nursing staff.
Updated on 5/15/2020.
Athens County (Athens): CLOSED – The syringe exchange program, operated by the Athens City-County Health Department, has been suspended since March 11th. It normally operates from 1p.m. – 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and is currently working on a safe restart plan.
Brown County (Georgetown): OPEN (reduced locations) – Prevention Point has closed their Ripley site, but their Georgetown location (826 Mt. Orab Pike) remains open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. They are also offering personal hygiene packs to visitors.
Butler County (Middletown and Fairfield): OPEN (reduced locations) – The Exchange, which typically operates at these locations is not currently traveling outside of Hamilton County to offer syringe exchange services.
- Their Fairfield location is currently closed and will hopefully reopen in the next few months when The Exchange can make it back out to Butler County.
- Their Middletown location is open with support from the Regional Exchange Collaborative at its usual location on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 400 Crawford St., Middletown, OH 45044.
Clark County (Springfield): OPEN – After moving site locations for a month, One2One remains open at their original site (830 W. Main St., Springfield, OH 45504) during their regular weekly scheduled hours on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. after They are currently distributing literature to visitors on social distancing and hand cleansing protocols.
Clermont County (Batavia): CLOSED – The Exchange, which typically operates in Clermont County, is not currently traveling outside of Hamilton County to offer syringe exchange services.
Cuyahoga County (Cleveland): OPEN (reduced locations) – Circle Health’s syringe program is still operating at the Circle Health Clinic at 12201 Euclid Avenue from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Operations are still suspended for the Centers Van at Humadop (3305 W 25th St).
- OPEN (new location) – Cleveland has a new syringe exchange program through the MetroHealth System. They operate out of an RV on W 25th and Trowbridge Ave. in a parking lot across from MetroHealth Main Campus from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Darke County (Greenville): OPEN – The Xchange, run by the Family Health Center, is still operating every second and fourth Friday of the month from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 5735 Meeker Rd., Greenville, OH 45331.
Franklin County (Columbus): OPEN (altered hours) – SafePoint has temporarily changed their hours, but is operating at 1267 W Broad St., Columbus, OH 43222 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Gallia County (Gallipolis): OPEN (by appointment only) – Though previously closed, the Gallia County Public Health Department has reopened and is now exchanging syringes and distributing other supplies by appointment only. They are open biweekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during their business hours at 499 Jackson Pike, Suite D, Gallipolis, OH 45631. For appointments, call 740-441-2018.
Greene County (Xenia): OPEN – The exchange is still operating as usual with hours on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at 360 Wilson Dr., Xenia, OH 45385 and hours on Fridays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at 600 Pierce Dr., Fairborn, OH 45324. They are implementing a mail order naloxone program for those who can’t make it into their clinics.
Hamilton County (Cincinnati): OPEN (altered locations) – The Exchange Project provides updated schedules on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hc.xchange/. They are currently operating out of:
- 1670 Cooper St., Cincinnati, OH 45223 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Mondays
- 106 W McMicken Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45202 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Wednesdays
- 4968 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45238 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Fridays (location was moved here from 5080 Glencrossing Way)
- 250 William Howard Taft Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45219 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursdays
- Caracole: OPEN – Caracole’s mobile van is operating at 4138 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45223 on Thursdays from 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Jefferson County (Steubenville): OPEN – The Family Recovery Center syringe exchange program in Steubenville has reopened. They are accepting walk-ins every weekday during their business hours and are in the process of implementing a mail order program for narcan kits.
Lorain County (Wellington): CLOSED – The Lorain County syringe program, previously located 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.
Lucas County (Toledo): OPEN (reduced locations) – The Northwest Ohio Syringe Service (NOSS) program in Toledo is in the process of reopening its three main locations. They are now offering a text alert service (register online at www.lucascountyhealth.com/syringe-services/) and are publishing online resources on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NOSS2655/.
- As of 5/7/20, their location at Talbot on 732 Main St., Toledo, OH is open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
- Their location at the Methodist Church on 1201 Madison Ave., Toledo, OH will reopen on 5/19/20 on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
- Their location at the Unitarian Church on 3205 Glendale Ct., Toledo, OH 43614 is currently closed and is anticipated to open up in June
- BY APPOINTMENT ONLY: The County Health Department, located at 635 N. Erie St., Toledo, OH 43604 is supplying pick-ups by appointment only on Thursdays from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. (call 419-213-2655 for appointment)
Marion County (Marion): CLOSED – The Safe Syringe Access and Support syringe exchange program is still suspended, according to nursing staff in Marion. Appointments will not be available.
Montgomery County (Dayton): OPEN – Montgomery County Public Health is currently operating at three locations throughout the Dayton area.
- Vogel Health Center at 6175 W. Third St., Dayton, OH 45417 on Tuesdays from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- Life Enrichment Center at 425 N. Findlay Street, Dayton, OH 45404 on Fridays from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Carepoint Mobile Unit near East End Community at Dover Street on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Previous location at 624 Xenia Ave, Dayton, OH 45410 not currently operating
Muskingum County (Zanesville): Previously closed. More details to come.
Scioto County (Portsmouth): OPEN (by appointment only) – The Portsmouth City Health Department has reopened their syringe program. They are located at 605 Washington St., Portsmouth, OH 45662. Appointments are available every other week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Their next appointment days are May 20th, 21st, and 22nd and times range from 9:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. each day. Call 740-353-5153 for appointments.
Stark County (Canton): OPEN – The city’s SWAP syringe program will reopen Friday, 5/15/20 at 420 Market Avenue North, Canton, OH 44702, and will be open on Fridays from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Summit County (Akron): OPEN – Three locations are currently operating in the Summit County area:
- Akron Say No to Dope at 922 Kenmore Blvd., Akron, OH 44304 on Mondays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
- 1400 S. Arlington St. #28, Akron, OH 44306 on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
- The Fairway Center at 1867 W. Market St., Akron, OH 44313 on Fridays from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Washington County (Marietta): More details to come.