A group of community members and local agency representatives are developing a plan for a Syringe Exchange Program for the Homer area. Studies have shown that exchanges reduce transmission of viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C as well as other bacterial infections. Studies also demonstrate that syringe exchanges do not encourage or increase the use of illegal drugs, and in many cases show actual reduction in injection drug use. (See City of Homer Resolution 16-008 supporting the establishment of a Syringe Exchange Program in Homer.)
Recently South Peninsula Hospital agreed to host the syringe exchange program in their training and education facility on Pioneer Avenue. This is an ideal location as it is very accessible, even for those without transportation. It is secure and somewhat separated from other businesses and activities that may feel jeopardized by this project.
On Monday 4/11/2016 Homer City Council held a work session to discuss the burgeoning opioid and heroin addiction epidemic in our community. Three main focus areas were identified: prevention, recovery and harm reduction. A syringe exchange program will be the major contributor to harm reduction within the population of community members that are currently using injecting these substances.
We plan to open for a 3 or 4 month pilot project by June 2016, with the intention of developing into a long-term project.
Based on the data from exchanges elsewhere we expect to see a reduction in associated infections, both acute and chronic. Additionally other programs have driven a decline in addiction as they connect those using drugs to resources that support their recovery.
Eventually we hope to create an environment in our community that empowers individuals to manage harmful addictions and ultimately through prevention and education will reduce the numbers starting on the path to addiction.
Funded by Alaska (April 2016)