Crime Tracker: The Needle Exchange - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Crime Tracker: The Needle Exchange

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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Regional Health District gives clean needles to injection drug users. It’s part of the Outreach Program and is designed to stop the spread of infection of HIV and Hepatitis B, C, and D. Lynn Everson has run the program for over 20 years. She says it is a response to a public health crisis.

People who shoot up heroin, meth and steroids can trade in used needles for clean ones five days a week at the center inside the health district building. Lynn also drives a mobile bus into neighborhoods where clients can meet her. Users can exchange up to 200 needles a day.

Everson says many of her clients exchange needles for their friends. The Needle Exchange Program also provides tourniquets, small medal cups to make drugs, cotton to filter dope – which helps filter out the chunks in heroin, sterile water, alcohol pads and bandages. Everson says the cost to run the program is significantly less than the cost of treating people with HIV and Hepatitis. She says 80% of her clients report not sharing needles, which significantly decreases the spread of infection. It costs $175 a year per person to provide the needle exchange service. The cost is dramatically less than the lifetime treatment cost for HIV, which is $379,668. Lifetime treatment costs for Hepatitis C is $64,490.

In addition to the services, Lynn provides her clients with compassion – something many of them have never experienced before. Lynn sites the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study by the CDC, which says many drug users were abused and neglected as children. She says that though society views these individuals with sympathy when they are children, society changes its views toward them when they become adults. Lynn says her clients are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. This is the approach she takes everyday when she opens up the office door and her heart to her clients.
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