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Drug User Health Program
The Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) administered by Open Aid Alliance is an anonymous, evidenced-based public health program that reduces infection and the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C among community members who inject drugs.
We provide sterile syringes, other safer injection equipment, safe snort kits, biohazard disposal, education, harm reduction information, and referrals for people who use injection drugs (PWID). The exchange is anonymous, safe, and judgement free.
If you have any questions on how the exchange operates or about the benefits of syringe exchange programs, check out our FAQ below. If you can’t find the answers you need in the FAQ, please send your question to us using the form.
Syringe Exchange FAQ
Persons who inject drugs can substantially reduce their risk of getting and transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections by using a sterile needle and syringe for every injection.
The exchange is open 1-5 PM Monday-Thursday and 1-3 PM on Fridays.
Yes! The syringe exchange program is anonymous. We don’t require your name, address, phone or any other identifying information.
If you are a first time user of the exchange, we will do an intake with you that takes about 5-10 minutes. During the intake, we will gather some basic demographic information and establish your client ID. Your client ID is what we use to keep your identity anonymous and confidential at future visits.
Once established, you can come in to the exchange and dispose of any used syringes you may have and pick up new syringes and supplies.
SSPs, which have also been referred to as syringe exchange programs (SEPs), needle exchange programs (NEPs) and needle-syringe programs (NSPs) are community-based programs that provide, access to sterile needles and syringes free of cost, facilitate safe disposal of used needles and syringes, and offer safer injection education. Many SSPs also provide linkages to critical services and programs, including substance use disorder treatment programs; overdose prevention education; screening, care, and treatment for HIV and viral hepatitis; HIV pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); prevention of mother-to-child transmission; hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccination; screening for other sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis; partner services; and other medical, social, and mental health services.
Based on existing evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General has determined that SSPs, when part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, can play a critical role in preventing HIV among persons who inject drugs (PWID); can facilitate entry into drug treatment and medical services; and do not increase the unsafe illegal injection of drugs. These programs have also been associated with reduced risk for infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Many SSPs offer other infection prevention materials (e.g., alcohol swabs, vials of sterile water), condoms, and services, such as education on safer injection practices and wound care; overdose prevention; referral to substance use disorder treatment programs including medication-assisted treatment; and counseling and testing for HIV and viral hepatitis. SSPs also provide linkages to other critical services and programs, including screening, care, and treatment for HIV and viral hepatitis, HIV pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), prevention of mother-to-child transmission, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccination, screening for other sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis, partner services, and other medical, social, and mental health services. SSPs also protect the public and first responders by providing safe needle disposal and by reducing the number of people living with HIV and HCV infections who could transmit those infections to others.
No. Based on existing evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General has determined that SSPs, when part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, do not increase the illegal use of drugs by injection. The opportunity to expand HIV and viral hepatitis prevention services through SSPs will support communities in their efforts to identify and prevent new infections. SSPs are an effective public health intervention that can reduce the transmission of HIV and facilitate entry into drug treatment and medical services, without increasing illegal injection of drugs. SSPs often provide other services important to improving the health of persons who inject drugs (PWID), including referrals to substance use disorder and mental health services, physical health care, social services, overdose prevention and recovery support services. Studies also show that SSPs protect the public and first responders by providing safe needle disposal.
Here are additional resources to check out to stay safe and healthy
These are some of our favorite resources for folks who use injection drugs. Using best possible injecting practices, taking care of your injection sites and understanding overdose response are key to keeping yourself and those you care about healthy. And, as always, feel free to contact us with any concerns or questions at 406-543-4770.
These days, we have to assume fentanyl is in everything so it’s best to test your drugs prior to using. Here is excellent information for testing various substances (heroin, meth, MDMA). We have test strips available so please ask if you need some.
Check this: Getting Off Right is an in depth guide of best practices for injection. One of our favorite publications. If you’re new to injecting, come in and ask for a copy.
Here’s a guide from the CDC about reducing your risks for HIV if you’re an injection drug user. HIV and Injecting Drugs 101
Opioid Overdose Basics: Recognizing and Response from The Harm Reduction Coalition. Tons of great information here.
Video of an actual overdose and someone responding with Narcan (spoiler: they save his life!). Good to watch to see how easy it is to use Narcan. Have it on hand. Overdose deaths are preventable!
Use the right amount of citric acid to dissolve your heroin to avoid vein damage. Video here.
Identification, Treatment and Prevention of Abscesses. Long but definitely worth a read (there is a summary as well). Real talk written by drug users for drug users.