Pittsburgh’s First Legal Needle-Exchange Program ‘Running Smoothly’
Allegheny County, Pa.'s, first legal needle-exchange program is "running smoothly" and has not experienced any protests during its first six weeks of operation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The year-long pilot program, launched by Prevention Point Pittsburgh on April 7, operates every Sunday from 12:30 p.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the Allegheny County Health Department in Oakland, where free needles, bottle caps for "cooking drugs," alcohol prep pads and condoms are distributed. Prevention Point Pittsburgh coordinator Alice Bell said the group, which receives funding from individual donors and foundations, distributes approximately 5,000 to 6,000 clean needles each week. The group illegally distributed clean needles to individuals and "shooting galleries" for six years before being selected to run the county program, and it continues to make such deliveries. In addition to the distribution program, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and the Partnership for Minority HIV/AIDS Prevention also offer free HIV testing and counseling, and the Staunton Farm Foundation recently approved a $39,600 grant that will allow Prevention Point Pittsburgh to hire an outreach worker to help drug users find housing and get rehabilitation services. "We felt like people who cared enough about exchanging needles would be most likely to accept help from an outreach worker," Joni Schwager, Staunton Farm Foundation manager and program officer, said. The distribution's parking lot location was originally selected as a "pilot site" but it has "worked so well" that Prevention Point has no immediate plans to relocate, although it would like an indoor site "[e]ventually," Bell said (Weisberg, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.