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Orange County launches its first needle exchange program for drug users

Published On: 03-10-2016 in Category: drug abuse, heroin addiction, naloxone, substance abuse

Orange county launches its first needle exchange program for drug users

Looking at the epidemic of drug and heroin addiction, it is not only the federal and state governments which are working towards eradicating the problem of drug abuse, but even young volunteers from Orange County are doing their bit.

Unlike most other organizations which focus on addressing the issue of drug abuse, this non-profit group – known as Orange County Needle Exchange Program – focuses on safety of the addicts. The program launched recently involves distribution of clean needles to drug users in Santa Ana area.

Citing the New York Times, a report published in the OC Register in February 2016 said the model is inspired by a campaign run in 1988 by the “bearded biker,” named Dave Purchase, who gave needles, bleach, cotton swabs, mittens and cookies to heroin users in downtown Tacoma, Washington.

The needle exchange program

The first of its kind to run in Orange County, the weekly effort aims to check the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. “We are ecstatic,” said founder Kyle Barbour, a 27-year-old medical student of University of California, Irvine. “The time has really come.”

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, there are around 7,000 residents living with HIV. The sterilization processes for needles are scarcely available in Orange County, said state health officer Dr. Karen Smith in the report published by the OC Register.

The volunteers will swap up to 20 dirty needles per person for clean ones near City Hall. In a few months, they’ll also begin distributing naloxone, an antidote for heroin and opiate overdoses. Barbour and her group will test the drug users for HIV and hepatitis C, distribute condoms, and make referrals for treatment, housing and health services.

The group’s first program application before the California Department of Public Health in June was rejected due to insufficient funding and opposition from neighbors and police chief over the venue of the initiative. They were against the proposed venue of the LGBT Center OC over the fact that it was too close to an elementary school. Some of the other counties in the state conducting the needle exchange programs include Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego.

Risk of drug addiction

Addressing the drug abuse pandemic needs an effort from all sections of the society, be it the state, health workers, institutions or the individuals. Youngsters mostly get influenced to take drugs,  but regular usage or overdose can cause seizures and heart attacks.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance or opioid abuse, help is available. Call the Orange Drug Treatment & Rehab Center right away at the 24/7 helpline number 657-232-4008 to know more about specialized treatment plans for various addictions in your vicinity.

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