October 23, 2021

C’ville approves program for needle exchange

Details still need to be worked out, but Cortlandville will soon allow a needle-exchange program to help reduce the number of syringes on the ground and help prevent the spread of disease through shared needles.

The decision came after the town board approved the decision Wednesday to have a mobile resource vehicle from the Southern Tier AIDS Program come to the town so opioid users and others with syringes can dispose of them, get clean ones and also be connected to support services provided by the program, according to the program’s website.

“It’s a good service,” Town Supervisor Tom Williams said Thursday. Williams said after the 5-0 vote Wednesday that he would speak further with Dean O’Gorman, the program director of Healing Hearts Collaborative, a program designed to get people trained on how to use naloxone and a local support advocate for addiction, on further details with the Southern Tier AIDS Program.

O’Gorman said Thursday he wasn’t specifically sure how the program would work, but it would be a mobile unit coming to the town.

John Barry, the executive director of Southern Tier AIDS Program, could not be reached Thursday.

This is the first needle exchange program to come to the county, O’Gorman said, adding it should have come sooner. “I’m glad to see there are parts of our county that see the need for this and there are people who want it.”

O’Gorman has been working to educate people on addiction support services and resources after his son died of an overdose in 2017.

Needle exchange programs, he said, are an effective way to help people get resources they may need.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree.

“Nearly 30 years of research has shown that comprehensive Syringe Service Programs are safe, effective, and cost-saving, do not increase illegal drug use or crime, and play an important role in reducing the transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV and other infections,” states a 2019 report on needle programs. “Research shows that new users of SSPs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and about three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who don’t use the programs.”

O’Gorman said that having seen these programs in action, they treat people with dignity and respect and get them the help they need.

“This is about saving lives,” he said.