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

New needle exchange program coming to Pasco

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PASCO, WA - Local hospitals and organizations came together to try and tackle the opioid epidemic, since the Columbia Basin has some of the highest overdose rates in Washington.

A meeting was held to discuss what we're doing as a region to fight the opioid crisis, and what we can do better. One of the main things to improve is finding a common strategy. One of the presenters, Becky Grohs, talked about how Washington's nine counties have the same goals when it comes to fighting opioids... there just isn't one cohesive plan right now.

Grohs is also involved in the new opioid resource networks, where doctors can get help from experts if they have a challenging patient or if they know someone who needs naloxone.

However, there is some controversy around handing out naloxone, a drug used to reverse a narcotic overdose. Some might say it only enables drug users since they know there is a medication available to revive them. But Grohs says the critics might view their services they offer a little differently if it hits closer to home.

"For all the critics out there that look at a syringe exchange program or how we're providing overdose kits... that the story changes when its your 16-year-old nephew or your neighbor or your mom," Grohs said. "We need to be open-minded and that there's probably another side to every story, and to get out and look at the facts."

The main point they wanted to drive home is naloxone does more good than harm, since a lot of the overdoses they see are accidental.

There were some new ideas brought up today that will start pretty soon as well. A needle exchange is coming to Pasco.

The needle exchange will give those suffering from substance abuse a safe place to dispose of used needles in exchange for clean ones, and to offer those people treatment resources.

Despite the negative stigma surrounding needle exchange programs, Everett Maroon, executive director of Blue Mountain Heart To Heart says studies show people who use these programs are more likely to look for treatment options.

"We know for sure that it decreases people's use of illicit and licit substances," Maroon said. "We know for sure it decreases robbery and other kinds of criminal behavior in and around the syringe exchange. We know for sure we can help people decrease their morbidity associated with injection use."

Maroon hopes that the needle exchange will be open starting in May, and when it does, it'll be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays at the health district building on Clark Street.

The program also just got a grant from the state to buy a van that will help ease the transport of needles from Walla Walla to Pasco.