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New York to expand syringe exchange programs into rural areas

ALBANY — New York has quietly established a program that expands access to clean syringes in far-flung areas of the state as health officials work to reduce overdose deaths and control the spread of infection and disease among injection drug users.

The program, known as Secondary Syringe Exchange, is similar to the state’s decades-old syringe exchange program (SEP), but it would target hard-to-reach, rural areas and individuals who may not wish to buy clean syringes at authorized pharmacies due to stigma or cost.

At secondary exchange sites, drug users could exchange used needles for clean ones and receive other supplies that encourage hygienic drug use such as sharps containers, alcohol pads and non-latex gloves. Trained staff would also educate the user on overdose prevention and hygienic injection practices.

“The second-tier syringe exchange programs are likely to be particularly important in rural parts of New York state where SEPs are not currently situated and where the stigma of going into a pharmacy to acquire syringes may be particularly onerous,” the state Department of Health wrote in proposed regulations published last week.

Curiously, the program was adopted using emergency regulations that skirt the state’s normal public comment period, which can …read more

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