Health district moving syringe exchange indoors for winter

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EPHRATA — The Grant County Health District is moving its syringe exchange programs indoors for the winter.

According to Theresa Adkinson, health district administrator, the exchange program will be run out of the health district’s offices at 1038 W. Ivy Ave. in Moses Lake until the weather gets better.

The program, which provides intravenous drug users with first aid and wound care kits as well as clean hypodermic needles in exchange for used needles, was started last summer and is operated by a county mobile outreach team one day each week on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“An individual shows up, brings syringes, and we replace them,” said County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny. “There’s a public entrance in the back, and there will be a privacy screen.”

“Nothing with the program will change,” Brzezny added.

“Nothing will be done out of the front of the office, and there will be no needles at the front desk,” Adkinson explained.

Adkinson said she has informed law enforcement of the proposed change, and that staff with Grant County Integrated will be there to help syringe exchange clients seek services, as well as de-escalate any situations that could arise.

“We’ve built relationships with clients, and they are extremely respectful,” she said.

Since its inception, the health district reports the syringe exchange has swapped out over 11,000 injection needles, distributed over 500 wound care kits and given out 82 Narcan treatment sprayers for opiate overdoses, which resulted in a reported 16 lives saved.

Tom Harris, a member of the Quincy City Council and the city’s representative on the health district’s board of director, said he was concerned about safety both for health district employees as well as the district’s neighbors.

“I’m concerned about access to the rest of the building,” he said.

“We will talk to staff if they want to be elsewhere (during the exchange hours),” Brzezny said.

Adkinson said the district reached out to other entities to find a winter home for the syringe exchange, but the warming center’s lease didn’t allow for it and Serve Moses Lake was too close to Frontier Middle School.

The Grant County Health District is also talking with officials in Ephrata to get a syringe exchange going there as well, Adkinson said. The proposal to host a once-a-month exchange has the full support of both City Administrator Wes Crago and Police Chief Mike Warren, Adkinson said.

Finally, Adkinson told board members the health district is looking to set a up “sharps container” for used and discarded needles in Moses Lake. The container, which is metal, is an old drop box for expired medicine and would be placed near the Moses Lake library.

“We want to make sure this is legal and safe,” she said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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