N.D. Department of Health Holds Syringe Service Program Training

Health leaders from across the state learned about starting programs in their communities

FARGO, N.D. — A new program could help people who inject drugs get connected to the right resources. Health leaders learned about starting syringe service programs across North Dakota.

Syringe service programs give people access to clean needles and a place to dispose used ones, but those at the North Dakota Department of Health says there’s so much more than that.

“There’s interactions, they can talk to providers about safe injections, harm reduction, they can get hepatitis and HIV testing, there’s counseling available, there’s all different types of services involved in a syringe service program. It’s so much more than just its name,” Sarah Weninger, HIV/STD prevention coordinator for the N.D. Department of Health, said.

About two dozen people representing cities from across North Dakota learned about how to set up syringe service programs, how to work with people who inject drugs, and harm reduction.

“I think it’s really important, being a person that doesn’t have lived experiences in the addiction realm to just try to create a program or create services for that person. Getting them involved in their own care and their own recovery is really important. I think this training has really hit home on that,” Heather Kroeker, substance use prevention coordinator in Valley City, said.

Each community can decide where to set up their services. The site goes through an application process with the state.

“We’re hoping that more communities would establish syringe service programs to help people who do inject drugs to reduce their risk of HIV and hepatitis C transmission because we are seeing increases of hepatitis C in North Dakota but also just to better themselves and make it a healthier community in general,” Weninger said.

“In smaller communities that data’s really difficult to gather. So with grants, we’re able to start gathering that information. Getting programs like this… and we can bring that back, that’s the best way for us to gauge how big of an issue addiction may or may not be,” Kroeker said.

Those at the training say it’s important to recognize people for who they are.

“We hope to just reduce the stigma so that people who have any issue really feel comfortable in getting help,” Kroeker said.

Syringe service programs were approved by the legislature last year. There are authorized programs in Fargo and Mandan.

Categories: Local News, North Dakota News