Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) exist in 160 cities across the US because they are a scientifically proven and cost-effective public health measure.
Northern Nevada HOPES opened Change Point – Nevada’s first legal Syringe Services Program in January 2014 and has since collected over 360,000 used syringes that could otherwise have ended up in our community’s streets. HOPES’ Syringe Services Program allows people in our community to safely dispose of their used needles and sharps, for free, in exchange for clean ones. And after just one year, HOPES has seen an 80% return rate on the syringes it distributes.
HOPES is committed to making a positive impact on the health of our community. By providing safe syringe disposal methods, HOPES is reducing the number of improperly disposed syringes in the community. This makes a huge difference for first responders like law enforcement and emergency medical technicians, 30% of whom experience needle stick injuries while on the job. One study found a 66% reduction in needle stick injuries among first responders in cities with SSPs.
HOPES has also partnered with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful on monthly river cleanups to keep the Truckee River clean and syringe-free. HOPES also works closely with local nonprofits Join Together Northern Nevada (JTNN) and Northern Nevada Outreach Team (NNOT) on quarterly syringe and prescription pill round-ups. During quarterly syringe round-ups, HOPES, JTNN, and NNOT collect an average of 5,000 used syringes.
To date, HOPES has over 2,000 registered SSP participants. That’s 2,000 members of our community who now have access to clean syringes and a support system at HOPES that could potentially save their lives.
Having access to clean, sterile syringes helps people who inject drugs be more responsible about their use. It connects them to vital resources including medical care and substance use treatment. And most importantly, having access to sterile syringes is the most effective, evidence-based prevention method in the spread of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV for people who inject drugs.
Plus, SSPs save tax payer dollars. The cost of a sterile syringe is just $0.10 compared to the lifetime cost of treating infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV – both of which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While some may worry about the potential for increased drug use, numerous scientific studies have established that SSPs do not increase crime or drug use, but instead provide a gateway to drug treatment and medical services. One study found that SSP participants are five times more likely to enter a drug treatment program than non- participants.
Syringe Services Programs dramatically reduce improper syringe disposal and improve the public heath of the communities in which they operate. As a community health center, Northern Nevada HOPES will continue to create programs and services to better our community, and having a comprehensive Syringe Services Program is doing just that.