On Monday, May 14, Alderson began their collaborative needle exchange program. The program will be held every two weeks on Mondays, alternating between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
The temporary location is at the Greenbrier River Interpretive Center (the old Gulf station) in Alderson. As soon as a new location can be made ready, the needle exchange will move to a location better fitting the needs of the clients and service providers.
This needle exchange is a joint program among several churches, groups, volunteers, the Town of Alderson, Alderson Police Department, Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department and the Greenbrier County Health Department.
Individuals seeking to exchange needles will not be able to just walk in and get needles. The process requires a structured approach which involves peer coaching, spiritual counseling, epidemiology, and public health counseling. Further, if individuals need testing for hepatitis B, C, HIV, and/or syphilis, it will be available for them at the time of exchange.
Needles are only traded on a “bring in-take out” basis. Clients may not grab a handful and go. If a client brings in two, they get two clean needles in exchange. Other supplies including needle boxes for the return and sterile supplies are included in the process. Counselors will also make arrangements for those who are ready to go to rehab at that time.
Mayor Travis Copenhaver said, “This process is not to encourage IV drug abuse, but to educate those who are IV drug users about the outcomes that adversely affect not only them, but the entire community. This does not mean that the Town of Alderson will not be enforcing its ordinances and continuing its efforts to curb drug abuse and the problems that accompany it. However, the needle exchange area will not be a targeted enforcement area for those who come in or leave.”
The Town of Alderson has provided education to the elementary school staff in the handling of found needles; the socioeconomic problems and stigma around drug abuse and its effects; and what resources are available.
The third, fourth, and fifth grade classes at Alderson Elementary have been educated by the school health nurses about drug abuse. As the result of a grant, there will be a graduation dinner for the graduates of this training and their parents or guardians.
Mayor Copenhaver concluded, “We hope everyone understands our efforts are for safety, and prevention, and come with the hope that those who may not have previously received the help they need will take advantage of this opportunity.”