Plan for Roanoke syringe exchange receives state approval

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The State Health Commissioner has authorized the Council of Community Services to establish a comprehensive harm reduction program that includes a syringe exchange.

The initiative still requires grant funding, and time to establish an office, purchase supplies and hire and train staff, but advocates say the approval represents an important step forward.

Pam Meador is the Director of the Drop-In Center operated by the Council of Community Services.

"This a program that is needed in our city," Meador told WDBJ7.

"We've been educating. We've been testing. We've been handing out disinfection kits, wound-care kits for the last three or four years," Meador said in an interview, "but this is the next step."

Meador said she is thankful for the support of the city, and especially Police Chief Tim Jones, who initially opposed the syringe exchange.

She's says the main goal is disease prevention, and she is confident the syringe exchange will have an impact, because of the track record of similar programs, including three others here in Virginia.

"In a community where substance abuse is a problem, then HIV and Hepatitis C are a problem," she said. "And Roanoke city, you know, we have those two problems."

The syringe exchange will not happen overnight.

The Drop-In Center is still waiting on grant funding that will allow it to lease space, purchase supplies, hire staff, and begin training.

Meador says she is hopeful the Drop-In Center can have all of those pieces in place sometime this fall.

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