County applies for opioid grant to help needle exchange

County applies for opioid grant to help needle exchange
October 25
00:00 2018

Last week, county commissioners voted to let the Forsyth County Department of Public Health apply for a state grant of up to $100,000 to help a local needle exchange program.

If the county is awarded the one-time 10-month grant, the funds will help the Twin City Harm Reduction Coalition expand its hours and outreach. The non-profit operates the county’s only needle and syringe exchange, which is located at Green Street United Methodist Church.

During a briefing earlier this month, Assistant Health Director Tony Lo Giudice said it currently only has one part-time employee and is open nine hours a week. The grant will be used to fund three part-time positions and will also cover allowable supplies, advertisement and administration of the grant. The money cannot be used to buy the overdose drug naxolone, which is also known as Narcan. By state law, public funds cannot be used to purchase needles and syringes for exchanges.

“This grant will help them to operate 30 to 40 hours a week and allow them to do more community outreach, therefore bringing in more clients,” said Lo Giudice.

Needle exchanges, which became legal in the state in July 2017, attempt to reduce disease transmission and other problems that stem from intravenous drug use by collecting used needles and syringes, which it incinerates, and providing clean supplies. It also distributes Narcan and provides access to services, like addiction treatment referrals.

“The end goal is to get these folks into treatment and get some help,” said Lo Giudice.

The local needle exchange is a member of Forsyth County’s Opioid Task Force, along with various local government agencies that deal with opioids. The Health Department’s POSSE program provides testing for HIV, Hepatitis and other diseases there once a week.

The grant is being offered by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services using money from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The grant, which only health departments can apply for, funds efforts to mitigate the opioid crisis. Along with needle exchanges, the grant is also offered for addiction treatment for those in the justice system, post-overdose response teams, Fair Chance hiring policies for those with criminal records, and rapid re-housing services for the homeless.

Lo Giudice said that last year there were 66 confirmed unintentional overdoes in the county and 900 known doses of Narcan were administered.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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