Barre needle exchange benefits from syringe drop box program

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) Barre leaders say they're excited used needle disposal boxes are being used. We reported that they've collected tens of thousands of sharps in just six months.

Now, members of the Greater Barre Safe Sharps Alliance say the success of its needle disposal boxes has impacted a local syringe exchange program. In fact, since the boxes have been in place they have continuously seen participation increase, which Barre officials say is a good thing.

"These units also serve as an instrument for us to do some targeted outreach," said Joan Marie Misek with the Vermont Department of Health.

Each drop box advertises Vermont CARES needle exchange program, and she says that results in increased participation.

"They have seen a 10 percent increase in the membership of their syringe service program," Misek said.

The increase excites officials because once they are in a program, access to treatment becomes more accessible.

Other parts of Vermont are seeing different results.

The Department of Health is seeing participation in its syringe services programs going down. They have been keeping track since January 2013. Participation peaked in July of 2016 when they had 1,175 participants. At last check, they had 961. The decrease in participation signals an increase in treatment and recovery.

"The number of people who are being referred to treatment are actually going to treatment and that's part of the dip that you're seeing," said Jolinda LaClair, the Vermont director of Drug Prevention Policy.

LaClair is encouraged more people are going to treatment. She says the state wants to expand the hours at syringe exchange programs and add hours they're open.

"We're constantly saying, ‘How do you reach the 12,000 plus people who are not in treatment?' Part of the way to do that is through syringe exchange programs, which are robust around the state," LaClaire said.

In Barre, Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Aldsworth considers Barre successful in educating the public and making a difference.

"There are solutions, they just have to be collaborative solutions and if you don't do that they will be destined to fail," he said.