Syringe service sees success two months after launch

Adam Urquhart A closer look at some of the supplies SSANA outreach workers will have with them when responding to calls. They will also be supplying users with much of what’s seen here including sterile syringes, cookers, cotton, condoms, etc.

NASHUA – After launching the Syringe Services Alliance of the Nashua Area approximately two months ago, the Division of Public Health and Community Services is already seeing an impact in the community.

Through SSANA, people are getting more than just clean syringes, they’re getting connected to services and establishing relationships with people who can help.

In a statement, Allen Irwin of Revive Recovery said, “The stories and encounters that I personally have witnessed have been moving, to say the least. This is not only making an impact on those who need the direct service, it is also making an impact on our community and those who may have been skeptical. Just by making ourselves available to educate and respond, we have begun to make waves in our community. I truly believe that going into the warmer months we will only begin to see more of these positive encounters and experiences all throughout Nashua. Word has already spread to neighboring towns and cities which has prompted phone calls from those inquiring and seeking services. We have already seen close to a handful of people find treatment as a result. And the impact up to this point has only just begun to ripple its way into our community.”

By connecting people to resources, they’ve seen a number of people commit to safer injection practices, and clients increasingly disposing of syringes safely. Through reaching out to users where they are, if a client discloses information that they’re experiencing homelessness or mental health problems, community health workers can then refer them to services.

Courtney Ellison, health promotion specialist with DPHCS, said things have changed from the first interaction they have with a client to now.

Ellison said, “Now it’s changed from handshakes to hugs, and it’s making people feel a part of something and that they matter.”

So far in the two months since the program’s inception, a total of nearly 1,500 syringes have been dispensed, with approximately 70 clients served. Of those 70 clients, 28 are return clients. Also, more than 40 Naloxone kits have been distributed.

“The numbers speak for themselves in the sense that we distributed so many syringes and have so many repeat folks. When you look at the fact we have about 30 return clients, that’s pretty impactful,” Ellison said.

She said the program offers another opportunity to have face time with folks, and that they’re getting other needed services aside from clean syringes.

“It’s great, because there’s been an increase in our numbers for HIV and Hep C testing and referrals for substance use treatment,” Ellison said.

So far, there have been more than 25 referrals for HIV testing and more than 25 referrals for Hep C testing. They’ve also distributed business cards to health care providers and different businesses where people can call their number on the card and meet up with a community health worker at an appropriate location to distribute syringes.

SSANA is made possible by collaborative partnerships of the Southern New Hampshire AIDS Task Force, the Nashua Soup Kitchen, Revive Recovery and the city of Nashua DPHCS.

“It’s allowed us to meet people where they’re at and let them know, no matter what they’re going through, they have a community that supports them,” Ellison said.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.