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New Syracuse clinic offers health care to injection drug users

Ellen Abbott
The new MyCare Family Practice clinic in Syracuse.

ACR Health in Syracuse has opened a new clinic to provide health care for injection drug users. The agency hopes the facility can reach people who may feel alienated by the health care system.

Thirty-two-year old Jeremy Fiorino of Syracuse was the first patient at the clinic, which opened up this week. A heroin addict since 2012, he’s been clean now for 54 days.

"I had an abscess from when I was actively using, and I got some antibiotics, and they checked up on it,” said Fiorino.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Jeremy Fiorino was the first patient at the new clinic

He says the clinic was a different experience than he’s had in the past when, as an addict, he’d go to the emergency room for some simmering infection.

"The way people act, I can read body language. The expression on their face, then you say you’re a user. It’s just a negative vibe.”

Health officials say injection drug users often need treatment for abscesses on their skin where they inject heroin, but go without treatment.

Dr. Laura Martin of MyCare Family Practice is the medical director of the facility, and she says the best scenario is if something like that could be treated early, with a simple antibiotic.

"When we get them early, keeps people out of the emergency room, where they’re clogging services. It keeps them out of long waits where they leave and don’t take care of a problem and it helps us connect with a problem, handle it early so it doesn’t end up in a hospital stay,” said Martin.

She also says the clinic will connect patients with their own health care provider for the future. The clinic, now open two days a week, is open to anyone classified as an injection drug user. That could go beyond addicts to people who inject steroids, or insulin, or transgender individuals who inject hormones. It’s being funded by the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute.

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.