North Carolina’s Hepatitis C rates have gone up 200 percent between 2007 and 2011, Robin Gasparini of the Orange County Health Department reports.
As a result, local police and health officials have teamed up to start the health department’s program.
Under the program, anyone who wants them can get new, sterile syringes. So far a handful of people have taken up the offer.
Gasparini, a nurse, says it’s a safe resource for those who need syringes for prescribed medication, and have trouble getting them from a pharmacy.
“It’s at the pharmacists’ discretion who they sell syringes to,” Gasparini said. “So individuals that may have chronic diseases or individuals of low socioeconomic status may have difficulty obtaining syringes.”
In addition to the 20 syringes provided, users also get a needle disposal can and several fliers.
“Information on local resources including referrals on where to seek help or where to seek treatment if needed,” Gasparini said.
There are two safe disposal sites for used syringes in Orange County but Sheriff Charles Blackwood said he’d like to see more.
“That prevents a child from running into a needle at a playground, a bus stop, and those are calls we’ve responded to in the years,” Sheriff Blackwood said.
He added that his deputies encounter used syringes on the job. “If you arrest someone and they may be an illegal user and they may have them in their pocket,” he said.
The N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition reports that one in three officers will be stuck with a syringe during their careers, and that safe syringe programs can reduce exposure by 60 percent.