GREENVILLE – Family Health debuted the retractable syringe it plans on giving to drug users who participate in their new XChange program, during Tuesday’s informational community meeting.
In attendance were 15 local residents who “are interested in the community,” said Jean Young Family Health Executive Director.
“Everyone who came was extremely supportive of the program and came out to get the real information about what the program is going to do for the community,” Young said.
The needle exchange program was introduced by Family Health to local law enforcement and health workers last month. The program opens Oct. 12, and will run every month on the second and fourth Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Family Health’s Greenville Dental Clinic, which is closed on Fridays. The clinic is located at Family Health, 5735 Meeker Road, Greenville.
XChange is designed to provide one-time use syringes to combat needle sharing among those who are involved in drug use in order to prevent the spread of disease, including Hepititus and HIV. Once the needle has been used, it retracts, making it impossible to re-use.
The retractable needles also are safer as far as preventing accidental needle sticks to law enforcement and first responders, as well as to those who may find discarded needles in public areas.
Young said she wanted to emphasize the fact that retractable syringes “are safe for the community.”
Tuesday’s informational meeting included several displays presented by Family Health medical personnel and Darke County’s health department and sheriff’s office, aimed at educating the public on drug addiction and the help available for users and their families.
Those who participate in the XChange program will be allowed to bring in used needles in exchange for the retractable needles. Family Health officials have determined one person may receive no more than 100 needles at a time, Young explained.
“If they come in with five, they will get five,” she said, noting there are people who use up to 10 times per day, which accounts for the high number of needles one person may receive. “But if they come in with 500 needles, they’ll only get 100.”
The needles are being purchased through a grant Family Health received from the Cardinal Health Foundation in Columbus. No local or taxpayer dollars are being spent to support the purchase of needles.
Those who do participate also will be asked if they would like assistance with their addiction, Young said. Family Health will provide pregnancy screenings for users who believe they may be pregnant and also will provide referral to medical services, if the person is amicable.
Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker was in attendance for Tuesday’s public meeting. Whittaker said he was pleased with those who came out because they were interested in “getting the truth” about the needle exchange program “and making decisions based on facts and not assumptions.”
Whittaker said drug use in Darke County remains a serious issue and “bounces between opioids (heroin, for example) and methamphetamines,” depending on the drug of the day.
Family Health and Darke County Health Department personnel met with the county’s law enforcement and other groups to inform them about XChange.
“We’re meeting with different organizations,” Young said. “It’s the best way for us to spend our time” to educate the public.
Pastor Shawn Harrison of CMA Church in Greenville, and a neighbor to Family Health, was one of the first interested attendees who came to Tuesday’s XChange meeting.
“I came to make myself aware,” Harrison said.
Harrison said his church had “people under the influence come to the church for help. We can now help steer people” to XChange, he said, and “help educate people about what the community offers for help. This is our community and we have to work together right now.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Pastor Shawn Harrison of Greenville, left, learns about Narcan and retractable syringes from Family Health personnel. (Susan Hartley photos)