OLYMPIA – The Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program will begin operating on a temporarily altered schedule during the remainder of the summer. The Syringe Exchange program has been operating on a 3 day a week schedule, providing services on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons and evenings.
For the months of July and August, Thursday services which previously occurred at a site in downtown Olympia will not occur during this summer. Tuesday services which also occur in downtown Olympia will continue from 3:00-6:45pm. Monday services, which are conducted through the Department's Healthmobile, will continue to provide tailored services throughout the county between the hours of 1:00-6:00pm.
The County Health Officer, Dr. Diana Yu says "The Syringe Exchange is important and valued by both the County and community. The service is an essential public health strategy that reduces the risk of disease transmission. It is one we are committed to offering and providing." The use of needles in injection drug use plays a major role in the transmission of HIV and other serious blood related diseases, such as Hepatitis C. The Syringe Exchange program was developed to provide, clean, sterile needles, in a one-for-one exchange. This serves to decrease the potential risk of transmitting serious diseases to others and connect individuals who are using drugs to substance abuse treatment services.
Sherri McDonald, the Public Health Department Director says "this temporary change in service hours is more than an inconvenience for some members of our community. We recognize that. However, to operate this program we must have highly trained qualified staff who have the medical knowledge and interpersonal skills to assist those who use the service." The Department currently has a shortage of staff members with the skills needed to operate the program 3 days each week. In order to provide this service an appropriate staff to client ratio is necessary. Volunteers are utilized to support the program, however their role is now and has been, primarily to support Department staff.
Dr. Yu says "over the summer we will be developing a more robust staffing plan and fully believe that the additional day of service will be restored". For information specific to the Syringe Exchange program call 360-709-3298.