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Introducing the Harm Reduction Program to Bell County

For over a year, the community has heard about the needle exchange program being introduced into Bell County. But, many community members are unaware of exactly what the program entails.

The needle exchange program is technically known as harm reduction and harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas that are aimed at reducing the negative consequences that are associated with drug use. The program incorporates strategies that include safer use, managing use, abstinence to use, but most importantly meeting the users “where they are at” by addressing their use.

According to harmreduction.org, because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

The goal of harm reduction is grounded in the recognition that many people throughout the world are unable or unwilling to stop using illicit drugs and therefore it aims to:

• Keep people alive and encourage positive change in their lives;

• Keeping people who use drugs alive and protecting their health are the most urgent priorities. Harm reduction approaches are facilitative rather than coercive and aim to reinforce positive change in a person’s life, no matter how small that change might be;

• Reduce the harm of drug laws and policy.

Harm reduction seeks to improve drug laws, policies and law enforcement practices so that they are not detrimental to the health and well-being of people who use drugs and their communities.

Offer alternatives to approaches that seek to prevent or end drug use include:

• Access to high quality, evidence-based prevention, care and treatment programs that include such approaches such as cessation of drug use or even the entry to treatment.

The Harm Reduction Program at the Bell County Health Department will include:

• Referral to substance use treatment programs

• Screening for Hepatitis C and HIV;

• Education about overdose prevention and safer practices;

• Vaccinations, including those for hepatitis A and B;

• Screening for sexually transmitted diseases;

• Provide access to birth control through Bell County Health Department;

• Education on safe sex practices and free items to prevent disease transmission;

• Abscess and wound care assistance and free items for wound care;

• Narcan distribution and education;

• Referral to social (meetings, faith based), mental health, and other medical services;

• Housing assistance and case management;

• Provides a bridge to care and treatment for HIV and hepatitis C.

Middlesboro News will be doing a series on the harm reduction program that will include what a syringe services program is, what are the statistics around a harm reduction program, and will be interviewing Greg Corby Lee who is the Strategist with the Harm Reduction Initiative with the University of Kentucky and Jana Collins the Project Director for KADAP Income Reinvestment Program.