WEDCO Public Health Director Dr. Crystal Miller said she was not sure what to expect on the first day of the syringe exchange program in Scott County.
What happened Monday at the Scott County Health Center was not what she expected. Four participants came to the program, one was tested for hepatitis C and HIV, and two of the them were referred for treatment.
“That rarely happens on the first day,” Miller said. “Most of the time it takes time to build that rapport and they trust us. To see four on the first day is shocking.”
Most programs have a slow start, although as such programs have gained more media attention, the stigma of participating has lessened, she said.
“It’s not surprising in some ways because of how much attention has been given to the opioid problem,” Miller said. “Hopefully we are doing some things right.”
The fact that two people wanted to be referred to treatment helps let people know how the program can help, she said.
“That is the win right there. Ideally, we want everybody to be tested and everybody in treatment,” Miller said. “This is the positive aspect of what we are doing. It lets us know we are doing the right outreach and building community partnerships.
“We are recognizing this is not an individual problem but a community problem and we have to remove barriers to treatment, including employers who want to offer recovering addicts a job.
“That is what is good right now about the attention being paid to opioids. People are seeing as you peel the layers back, it is a community issue.”
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.