Harm reduction program decisions expected soon in Monongalia County

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Milan Puskar Health Right is seeking approval from Morgantown and Monongalia County to approve the syringe access program called LIGHT, Living in Good Health Together program.

Laura Jones (Milan Puskar Health Right)

Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones said the rules brought on by Senate Bill 334 in the last legislative session has changed the program, specifically the one-to-one syringe exchange requirement.

“To date this year, we will not reach the number of syringes that we gave out in the past because we’re now moving to a one-to-one exchange,” Jones said.

The professionals at the HIV Clinic at WVU believe the program is preventing the spread of dangerous drug-related infections,” Jones said.

“They strongly believe the Light Project and the Harm Reduction Program we have here is the only reason we have not seen a huge increase of HIV in our community,” Jones said.

From June through September 126,248 needles were returned, 90 NARCAN training sessions were given. about 2,300 fentanyl test strips were distributed at WVU and Morgantown bars and nearly 200 education sessions were held with clients, said LIGHT Program Director Cassidy Thompson.

“We distributed 999 Naloxone kits and we had 160 overdoses that were reversed and reported to us,” Thompson said. “And 100% of those overdoses resulted in the recipient being alive.”

Thompson said the increase of HIV infections will add to their harm reduction mission. A report from the CDC estimates there are 2,400 people in the state with HIV and up to 19% don’t know they’re infected.

“In the coming year we want to implement widening the variety of sexual harm reduction supplies offered at our Harm Reduction Clinics, like we said HIV is in our backdoor,” Thompson said.

A high percentage of HIV infections are blamed on injecting drugs, so testing is another service offered through the LIGHT Program. Thompson wants as many clients tested as possible for HIV and Hepatitis C.

“We are currently working on a gift card donation raffle,” Thompson said. “To enter anyone that gets tested and wants to be entered into a monthly raffle and they can win gift cards for getting tested.”

Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission must approve the program by December, according to the provisions of the new law.

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