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Needle exchange program to be expanded into Utica

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ACR Health has expanded its needle exchange program in Utica.  

In the Syracuse area, the organization’s three-year-old needle exchange program has reached almost 1,000 injection drug users. ACR health prevention director Erin Bortel says one of the reason it’s so successful is that it goes to where the injection users are.

"We’re able to infiltrate the community in a little bit more practical way, than expecting people who continually experience stigma and discrimination from having to come to us. So our mobility is our huge asset in our ability to reach individuals.”

This success has led to the opening up of a second location in Utica to offer support services around an injection drug using population.  Marcus Jackson, outreach specialist for ACR Health says it’s about more than just offering clean needles.

“We tell them all the time that it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it. And so we want you to be safe. Teaching them how to properly inject. How not to share cotton, water, cookers and tiles because there’s blood attached to it. These are a lot of things folk have been doing for years, and there’s danger attached to it,” said Jackson.

The sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia is one way HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C  is spread though this population. So another important component of these outreach programs is to also encourage injection drug users to get tested and treated for these diseases.


Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.