Roanoke city council approves harm reduction program that includes syringe exchange

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Roanoke's response to the opioid crisis could soon include a syringe exchange program.

On Monday afternoon, City Council approved the Comprehensive Harm Reduction Program Model, CHRP for short, which would include a needle exchange. The vote was unanimous.

Advocates say the syringe exchange would reduce the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne infections, while encouraging participants to enter substance abuse treatment programs. But the proposal also faced skepticism, including objections from Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones. He eventually dropped his opposition, and expressed support for the program following extensive discussions with coalition partners.

Representatives of the Council of Community Services and the Drop-In Center that will administer the program, say they are glad that everyone is now on board.

Colin Dwyer is a Program Manager with the Drop In Center.

"So I think that doing our due diligence and making sure that all of the bases were covered was important, and necessary," Dwyer said, "even if it did take a little extra time."

The state health department must still approve the application, but representatives of the Council of Community Services say all of the pieces could be in place by the end of the summer.