Syringe service program announced for Pittsburgh to reduce substance abuse health issues – WPXI

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Syringe service program announced for Pittsburgh to reduce substance abuse health issues The city announced its first needle service program Thursday that would be located downtown right next to the Allegheny County Jail.

PITTSBURGH – In Pittsburgh, overdose deaths are on the rise: From 2019 to 2020, overdoses increased by 22% in the city. In response, the city announced its first needle service program on Thursday, which would be located downtown right next to the Allegheny County Jail.

“I think people are really scared of what they don’t understand,” said Laura Drogowski, head of the Office of Community Health and Safety.

Pennsylvania is one of only 10 states where syringe programs are still illegal at the state level. But, in Allegheny and Philadelphia, county ordinances allow these kinds of drug prevention programs.

“We had to navigate what was a new process for us,” Drogowski explained. She shared that early in setting up the program, the city was required to identify an exact location, day of the week, and time to provide these services.

The place and time approved by the city council and the board of health is Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., which may seem small, but experts said it’s a huge step.

“We want to be able to implement a harm reduction strategy to make drug use safer,” said Josh Schneider, overdose prevention coordinator for the Office of Community Health and Safety.

Schneider said the city wants people struggling with addiction to access resources and treatment through things like our syringe service.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Ed Gainey touted that needle programs help reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis and serve as a gateway to a cure.

“People are five times more likely to enter treatment and recover through needle service programs,” Drogowski said.

Without state support or funding, the city will use American Recovery Act money to pay for programming for the next two years, but will need a long-term solution.

“Right now, syringes are considered drug paraphernalia,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, who represents the 21st District.

Innamorato is a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would change that and open the door to state funding, but must first overcome the stigma of drug use.

“They don’t come to a neighborhood with a program, but they work with the neighborhood and talk to them about their concerns,” Innamorato said.

The city’s syringe service program is scheduled to launch later this summer and will be located at 611 2nd Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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