Pittsburgh Pilot Needle-Exchange Program to Begin April 7
Prevention Point Pittsburgh will launch a year-long pilot needle-exchange program in Oakland, Pa., on April 7, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The needle-exchange program will operate every Sunday in April from 12:30 p.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the Allegheny County Health Department, according to Stuart Fisk, a registered nurse and co-founder of Prevention Point Pittsburgh. Fisk added that it has not yet been determined whether this location will serve as the permanent site for the program. Pennsylvania law bars the distribution and use of non-prescription needles, but counties can declare states of health emergency to override the ban and implement needle-exchange programs. Allegheny County declared such an emergency last year, thus allowing the county health department to sanction a pilot needle-exchange program. Prevention Point Pittsburgh has operated "underground" needle-exchange programs since the mid-1990s, but the county's approval will allow the group to more easily solicit funding for its efforts. Prevention Point Pittsburgh last week received a two-year, $30,000 grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, which administers grants for HIV/AIDS services and prevention efforts in the region. Nancy Zionts, senior program officer at JHF, said that the county's approval of the needle-exchange program made the foundation "comfortable" with allocating funding. Fisk said that he was not sure whether injection drug users would feel comfortable "openly" exchanging needles, particularly outside of their own neighborhoods, but he added that his group will continue to deliver clean needles to "shooting galleries" in certain communities. Fisk said that he would like to see Prevention Point Pittsburgh expand its services to include disease testing and case management (Weisberg, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.