What is the Harm Reduction Clinic at Jefferson County Health Department?
The Harm Reduction Clinic (HRC) is an opportunity for people who use illicit drugs to get help. “Harm reduction” is an approach to helping people suffering from addiction by focusing on preventing unhealthy consequences of their substance use.
Why is one operating in Jefferson County?
One of the missions of local health departments is to address unmet public health needs in the community. The Jefferson County Board of Health views preventive healthcare for people who use drugs, particularly those who inject opioids, to be one of these unmet needs. We face an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in West Virginia, which had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country for 2014 and 2015.
The Board of Health has set the goal of achieving five important outcomes of the Harm Reduction Clinic:
- Reduced opioid overdose deaths through expanded access to naloxone (Narcan);
- Reduced morbidity and mortality from HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C through testing, referral to treatment, and sterile syringe access through a 1 for 1 exchange program;
- Reduced number of sharps injuries due to improperly discarded needles;
- Increased access to counseling and medically assisted treatment of chemical dependence through collaboration with local behavioral health providers;
- Prescription and injection of long-acting naltrexone (Vivitrol) service for select patients who are in recovery from opioid and alcohol abuse.
Is this a drug treatment program or “rehab”?
No. Harm reduction is about meeting patients where they are in their readiness to recover from addiction. HRC staff will inform patients about abstinence-based recovery programs, but this approach is not the focus of the HRC.
Is this a “needle exchange”?
Sterile syringe access is one feature of the HRC. One of the main goals of the Jefferson County Board of Health in establishing the HRC is reducing the transmission of hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV in the community. An additional goal is to reduce the amount of improperly discarded needles in our area. Patients at the HRC will receive one free sterile syringe for each used syringe they discard at the HRC.
How should patients bring in the used needles?
Place used syringes in a thick plastic bottle, such as a laundry detergent container, put the lid on it, and write “SHARPS” in permanent marker on the side. HRC nurses will confirm the number of syringes in the container and dispense an equal number of sterile syringes for the client. Staff will then seal the container and dispose of the sharps properly.
What else happens at the clinic?
All patients at the HRC will see the county health officer and nursing staff for an intake visit. At the first appointment, patients and staff will use shared decision-making to determine the appropriate education, screening, testing, referrals, and follow-up.
Additional services that patients may receive include:
- Naloxone (“Narcan”) training and prescription for treatment of opioid overdose;
- Non-judgmental encouragement and education about available addiction treatment options;
- Testing for HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B, and referral to treatment if necessary;
- Reproductive health services for education, condoms and other forms of contraception;
- Breast and cervical cancer screening programs;
- “Vivitrol” (long acting injectable naltrexone) prescription and injection for certain patients who are opioid-free for at least 10 days, are receiving professional addiction counseling, and do not have certain medical conditions like liver injury.
How much will this cost the patients?
This initial consultation and sterile syringes are free, but additional testing or preventive medications may require patient payment or insurance billing.
The Board of Health is offering this Harm Reduction Clinic to address unmet health care needs in Jefferson County, but as with all our services, patients will not be denied care based on residence or ability to pay.
When, Where, and How?
Patients will be seen at the Jefferson County Health Department, 1948 Wiltshire Road, Kearneysville, WV 25430 on an appointment only basis, beginning Tuesday, January 17, 2017. Call 304-728-8416 and ask about the “Harm Reduction Clinic” to schedule an appointment.