Syringe Access Program: Meeting People Where They’re At
GHS’s Syringe Access Program (SAP) strives to meet people where they’re at by using the harm reduction model to provide compassionate services to drug users who are not ready to quit. The program recognizes that there is still plenty of work that can be done with active users to reduce the harm of their drug use, both on an individual and community level.
Every Monday and Tuesday evening, GLIDE Health Services (GHS) staff and volunteers set up in GLIDE’s lobby to offer harm reduction supplies for injection and non-injection drug users, and provide health and wellness information.
HIV Services Manager, Paul Harkin, explains, “Our goal is to try to keep a person healthy, even though they are using drugs. We help with the spread of HIV and Hepatitis B and C, and we help reduce some of the most damaging aspects of injection drug use, like soft tissue disease and vein damage.” The SAP also conducts community outreach in the neighborhood to connect with users who might not be ready or able to come to GLIDE to access the program.
The SAP provides sterile needles, overdose prevention trainings, HIV counseling and testing, and referrals to other relevant programs and agencies. Research has shown that participants of syringe access programs reduce their risk of a variety of diseases, injuries, and infections. SAPs are often the first point of contact for drug treatment.
Paul shares the importance of maintaining a consistent presence in the community, “By continually showing up for our clients, the SAP gains the trust and respect of the community. They recognize that we care enough about them to show up, come rain or shine, and that is a crucial aspect to bridge building.”