It has been disappointing to see opposition building to the Alliance for Positive Health’s proposed syringe exchange site in Hudson Falls. The availability of public health services should be based on evidence, and the evidence provides strong support for the Alliance’s plan. Syringe exchanges are cost-effective and life-saving. According to the Centers for Disease Control, such programs reduce the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. By connecting people who inject drugs to treatment, they reduce overall drug use and overdose deaths. In fact, those who use syringe exchange programs are five times as likely to enter treatment and are more likely to reduce or even stop injecting altogether than those who do not.
Concerns about increased crime, drug use and other risks, on the other hand, are not supported by the evidence. Studies that have compared crime in areas with syringe exchange sites and those without find no differences in arrest rates. An assessment by the Institute of Medicine found that such programs increase neither the frequency of drug use by current users nor the initiation of drug use by those who had not used previously.
The Alliance’s plan will benefit the community as a whole. Our friends, neighbors, and coworkers who use injection drugs will be able to protect themselves and gain improved access to primary health care and other treatment. There will be fewer used needles in our communities, reducing the risk of needle-stick injuries for children and first responders.
At a time when communities throughout New York and across the country are struggling to figure out how to approach the opioid crisis, it would be a shame to see such a promising program to address it derailed. If it is, I hope Glens Falls will step up and welcome the Alliance’s program with open arms.
Robert Ward, Glens Falls