Syringe services program could be coming to Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke could be getting one step closer to a syringe exchange program. It would allow drug users to get sterile needles and syringes in an effort to reduce the risk of people getting and spreading diseases. 

The Roanoke Valley Collective, a group made up of more than one hundred organizations, presented its work to Roanoke City Council on Monday. 

“To focus on the needle exchange effort, really does this a disservice,” said Roanoke city manager, Bob Cowell.

Cowell says the proposed strategy would take a comprehensive approach and would focus on several key components to combat the opioid crisis.

“It will include peer recovery specialists, it will include the mental health component, counselors. It will include HIV and hepatitis C testing,” said Cheri Hartman, president of the Roanoke Valley Hope Initiative. 

The harm reduction strategy was presented to the city council by the Roanoke Valley Collective Response, a collective made up of more than one hundred organizations and key stakeholders. The collective was founded in September and has met monthly to come up with a strategy most well-suited to the Roanoke Valley.

“We wanted to look at what kinds of solutions are needed across the board in order to really effect successful community change around this issue,” said Hartman.


Many council members praised the collective’s efforts.


“It’s much more important for something this significant to be done right than to get it done quickly, so I really appreciate that you’ve put all this time and effort into it,” said council member William Bestpitch. 


The goal would be for the harm reduction program to have both a fixed and mobile location.


“Not just expect people to come to us but also be able to go and provide services where they’re necessary,” said Colin Dwyer, program coordinator with the Drop-In Center. 


The Council of Community Services is expected to submit an application to the state department of health by the end of the month. If approved, the harm reduction program could be in place by late summer. 

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