Roanoke's new Harm Reduction program already giving out clean syringes

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- In Roanoke, free, clean needles are now being given to a few people with substance abuse disorder. The program location has been a sticking point for some neighbors. But leaders said Friday so far, so good.

WDBJ7 photo

The Drop-in Center North has been open one month.
This space on Williamson Road, one floor down from apartments, offers HIV and HEP-C testing, among other services.

But it's also the place where people have to go to register for the clean needle exchange program.

"They are people that are people that are addicted but are trying to reduce their exposure as much as possible," said Anne Marie Green, leader of the Council of Community Services.

She said Friday that after four weeks, six people have taken them up on the offer.

"But it's been quiet," he said. "...Because there's no syringe exchange until they're ready to go out to the mobile van."

The location of that mobile van is secret. Only the center, the registered users and police will be told where it's headed. Only registered clients can access the clean needles and, after their first visit, they must bring dirty needles back to get new ones.

Roanoke's Harm Reduction Program is now the fourth of its kind in the state. But the whole premise of what it provides has bothered some of their new neighbors.

Some are concerned about the potential consequences to business. But Green said she's working to put their fears to rest. She hopes to speak with business owners in the area at an upcoming community meeting to answer their questions.

"So I think when people realize that the picture they're seeing in their mind of what a drug user is is not the right one and see how prevalent it is in the community," she said, 'I think people's minds will change."

Green said while they create and maintain relationships with their clients, they'll actively work to guide them to rehabilitative services.

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