New syringe exchange program coming to Pasco - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New syringe exchange program coming to Pasco

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WALLA WALLA, WA - Blue Mountain Heart To Heart, a non-profit organization from Walla Walla, is starting a syringe exchange program that will be held inside the Benton-Franklin Health District's Pasco facility.

The purpose of this program is to give those suffering from substance abuse a safe place to dispose of used needles in exchange for clean ones and offer those people treatment resources.

The non-profit decided to start the program in Pasco after Washington State surveys done in 2015 and 2017 showed that there were many people traveling the distance from Tri-Cities to Walla Walla to use the resource.

"Syringe exchange is a perfect entry point to getting people tests," said Everett Maroon, executive director of Blue Mountain Heart To Heart. "People who are reticent probably to go see other kinds of medical providers or talk to social service folks about their drug use. So we get to see people through these programs that are not really appearing in other parts of health care and social service infrastructures until they're critical with something."  

The program will also provide people with Naloxone, a medication that can immediately reverse an overdose.

"Naloxone can be used by anyone, so across the country we're seeing an expansion in getting that out to first responders who may encounter someone who is having an overdose," said Dr. Amy Person. Health Officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District. "To families of people who use narcotics or opioids and then also to people using them themselves."  

Despite the negative stigma surrounding needle exchange programs, the health district says studies show people who use these programs are more likely to look for treatment options.

"It's known that communities where there are syringe exchange programs, they actually see a decrease in crime; they see a decrease in contaminated needle and syringe litter," Dr. Person said. "We also see an increase in the number of people choosing to seek treatment for substance use disorder."

The Benton-Franklin Health District is supporting the program with the hopes of reducing HIV rates and Hepatitis C in people suffering from substance abuse.

The program is being privately funded by the Comer Family Foundation based out of Chicago, which focuses on syringe exchange programs.

The organization hopes to have the program up and running in the next couple of weeks.

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