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Syringe Vending Machines? Why Some States Are Doubling Down on Harm Reduction

With roughly 1,000 opioid overdoses per day and an increase in death, infectious, and communicable diseases, some states are beginning to take drastic measures in response to the opioid epidemic. The country is taking a vast range of approaches toward this crisis. Some states are taking a hardline “just say no” approach, including Florida. But other states, like Nevada, are making headlines for their increasingly popular and often controversial approach: harm reduction.

Needle exchange programs, or NEPs, are one of the founding pillars of the harm reduction ideology. They started in Europe with the explosion of HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. The logic is: if users reduce the risk of harmful behavior it will also reduce the cost to society (health costs, deaths, spread of disease, etc.). Since the 80’s, this trend has spread across Europe, Canada, and more recently, the United States. More states are adopting this model because of the nearly instantaneous benefits. The National Institutes of Health found that NEP’s reduced risky behavior among drug users as much as 80%. In addition to this, it is estimated that NEP participants are five times more likely to seek treatment for their addiction. So, it is no question why states like Nevada are expanding these tactics

Needle exchange programs are not simply needle-fairies, but rather complex networks of healthcare workers and community volunteers. They offer a safe haven to those who are often cast out by society. They are made up of individuals who lobby government to increase funding to addiction treatment. Often, needle exchange operators are even recovered addicts themselves who want to give back to their community. It is inevitable that these programs will spread and they hopefully will be our answer to this opioid epidemic.

Nevada will be the first state to adopt a “syringe vending machine.” Yes, literally, like a soda vending machine, except it’s free. Participants of the Trac-B program, operated by the Las Vegas Harm Reduction Center, will receive an ID card or personal pin number that they enter into the machine. The machine then dispenses a box that contains syringes, alcohol wipes, safe sex supplies, and a disposal box. This will give clean supplies and an avenue for safe disposal for thousands of addicts.

Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District stated, “Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community.”  In the past decade opioid use has doubled, and an estimated 45% of young people who use IV drugs have the hepatitis C virus. These programs are saving lives and cleaning up communities. In 2002, it was estimated that NEPs removed more than 25 million used syringes from communities. This number has doubled since then. Last year, Congress ended a ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs. The move was made partially in response to the highly publicized 2015 HIV crisis that hit a tiny county in rural Indiana — where nearly 200 people were diagnosed with HIV.

The United States is not the first country to adopt these vending machines. Europe, Australia, and Puerto Rico are already seeing the benefits of these programs. Canada has even adopted a crack-pipe vending machine to combat the health problems associated with crack cocaine use. Addicts often have very little health coverage or none at all. When injuries and diseases are prevented, it saves the public money.

two people sharing a needle

So Why do Some States “Just Say No” to Harm Reduction?

In the United States, the War on Drugs was founded on the ideology of “just say no” and “hard on crime.” The country has spent trillions of dollars since the beginning of this war and many are still dedicated to its cause. Many people do not understand addiction as a disease, but rather as a crime. They believe people should be punished for drug use and dealers should be put in jail for life. This is an idea that is hard to shake. Many politicians often preach this rhetoric and suggest that NEPs enable drug users to continue doing drugs. This claim, though popular, is simply false.

The benefits of harm reduction practices are overwhelmingly proven. The apprehension revolving around harm reduction stems from a misunderstanding of addiction. Many non-drug users believe addicts choose addiction and are unwilling to get help. The fact is, addiction is a disease that needs professional medical help, just like any other illness.

Many IV drug users are afraid to ask for help and live in the shadows of society. They hide from the stigma and judgment that surrounds addiction. Needle exchange programs bring users out from the shadows and show them that there is hope. It shows users that society does care about their well-being, and that they are worth being saved. This is why so many needle exchange participants later ask for help. Many NEPs even offer paths to recovery, detox, and treatment programs.

Getting Help at Wayside House

If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.   

 

Testimonials

  • “Thank you Wayside for being there for her when she needed your help the most!!!”   Woohoo!!! 

  • Wayside taught me how to be a woman and live life clean & sober!

    Alexandra N.

  • “Wayside is more than treatment. It is a home. I grew up emotionally in that little house. I was there for 9 months and they were the best 9 months of my life. To have time to learn about yourself and take the time to focus on yourself is such a blessing. The plants I planted are still there. I see them in the photos. Such a special place!!”

    Amanda O.

  • This is an excellent treatment facility and all women down in Delray Beach, FL. …if you have anything you can send to help these young/older women, believe me anything is appreciated. This place and God did wonders for my girl.

    Amy G

  • Wayside House is where i went to rehab & they are AMAZING!! Its a 90 day program & alot of the girls have absolutely nothing when they move into the house. If your feel generous, or just want to help, it’s a worthy cause!!  Mandy W.

  • “What a rich heritage Wayside House has!”

    Allen S.

  • “It was so nice to hear from Wayside House.  I am still employed and I love my job!!! I will have 9 months on the 21st of October…..All thanks to Wayside and you ladies at the Posner Center!!!!🤗”

    Rita P.

  • “Tonight’s Wayside House Anniversary meeting and listening to the journey’s with 1,2,6,22,29 and 33 years in sobriety empowered my heart! So happy for one of the girls I sent to Wayside House.”

    Katrin O.

  • “Wayside does such good work in our community.” 

    Jan S.

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    What People Are Saying

    • “I have always supported Wayside House — I know women who have come through their program and support all they do. If you don’t know about this fabulous place I encourage you to become involved and find out more — they are an anchor in Delray Beach and their history speaks for itself.” 

      Nancy S.

    • “I went through Wayside House & it was the first place that actually felt like home to me. The staff actually care about their clients and their sobriety. I worked through so much here without fear of being judged. I love wayside & it will always have a special place in my heart along with ALL the amazing women who work there.”

      Mandy W

    • I so wish I could tell the girls how much Wayside saved my life,  and after 31 years sober, it still is just “One Day at a Time” and “The Serenity Prayer.” I will always remember those first days of being at Wayside and how the girls , the counselors , and the House put me back on track to living a fulfilled and Sober life . I followed the AA steps, got a wonderful sponsor and have followed that path ever since. — Pamela R.

    • “Thank you Wayside for being there for her when she needed your help the most!!!”   Woohoo!!! 

    • Wayside taught me how to be a woman and live life clean & sober!

      Alexandra N.

    • “Wayside is more than treatment. It is a home. I grew up emotionally in that little house. I was there for 9 months and they were the best 9 months of my life. To have time to learn about yourself and take the time to focus on yourself is such a blessing. The plants I planted are still there. I see them in the photos. Such a special place!!”

      Amanda O.

    • This is an excellent treatment facility and all women down in Delray Beach, FL. …if you have anything you can send to help these young/older women, believe me anything is appreciated. This place and God did wonders for my girl.

      Amy G

    • Wayside House is where i went to rehab & they are AMAZING!! Its a 90 day program & alot of the girls have absolutely nothing when they move into the house. If your feel generous, or just want to help, it’s a worthy cause!!  Mandy W.

    • Allen S.

      “What a rich heritage Wayside House has!”

    • Rita P.

      “It was so nice to hear from Wayside House.  I am still employed and I love my job!!! I will have 9 months on the 21st of October…..All thanks to Wayside and you ladies at the Posner Center!!!!🤗”

    • Katrin O.

      “Tonight’s Wayside House Anniversary meeting and listening to the journey’s with 1,2,6,22,29 and 33 years in sobriety empowered my heart! So happy for one of the girls I sent to Wayside House.”

    • Jan S.

      “Wayside does such good work in our community.” 

    • Leah J.

      “I just wanted to thank you for how you and the team make the world a better place.  I won’t claim to understand the things you sacrifice, but you are truly wonderful for doing so.“

    • Janine T.

      “I  highly recommend Wayside Women’s in Delray Beach. My daughter completed their wonderful program, she’ll have 2 years July 1st. They have an active alumni. I couldn’t say enough good things about them, they’ve been doing this since mid70’s.”

    • Stacy J.

      “ Thankful for my sobriety and for Wayside! “

    • Susan B.

      “Wayside House was and is an amazing place to me. I am on a journey that is better than I could have ever imagined. The strength of the women that came before me, that are beside me, and those that are there now teach me how to live “.

    • Lisa D.

      “Wayside saved my life and I will never be able to repay them for everything they have done for me.”

    • Dolores A.

      “Wayside house saved my daughter’s life. She transformed into the beautiful woman I knew she could be. It’s only been a few months but one day at a time she and I are enjoying her recovery journey!!!”

    • Jeanne H.

      “We appreciate all that you do to help individuals in recovery, demonstrating God’s love in our community. Your staff at Wayside House continue to help in so many ways, women and their families that need the love, care and support that you are able to provide. Thank you so much for all you do for them.  May God continue to bless you, your staff and your volunteers each and every day for the light you provide for our community.”

    • Susan C.

      “ Wayside is “the light”! Congratulations on the article in the Palm Beach Post
      for all you do to make the commitment to help those in need.”

    • Lynne B.

      “I will always be grateful to Wayside for giving my daughter the tools and knowledge to live a sober life on the outside. You changed her life thank you thank you thank you, may all the people that pass through your wonderful cozy house succeed in sobriety as well.”

    • Katy B.

      “I am sober and happy today thanks to Wayside.”

    • A.D.

      “Having the opportunity to go to Wayside was the best thing I’ve ever done. They lovingly deconstructed my life so I could put it back together. They are a serious program that gave me the ability to understand myself in a way I never thought was possible. They didn’t baby me and they taught me how to be beautifully authentic with myself and those around me. I really can’t thank them enough.”

    • Susan T.

      “Please keep up your wonderful work; the kids of south Florida need you.”

    • Jaimie K.

      “I am making this donation and thank you for all you do!”

    • Pam H.

      “Celebrating 29 years 7/22/2016. Sponsoring, 3-5 meetings a week, and forever grateful to Wayside House!”

    • Laura B.

      “I will be celebrating my 17th year clean and sober.  PLEASE share with the celebrants that I am with them in spirit even though I can’t be with them.  Wayside rocks!  Remind them to stay until the magic happens.”

    • BH alumni

      “I just want to give a shout out to the Wayside staff and alumni who organized and participated in the first annual gratitude dinner. The entire evening was absolutely devine! Wayside House saved my life and I am so very happy that you are at the helm.”

    • Brenda

      “Just walking down memory lane! I Love Wayside House! I went through twice!!
      LOL!! Clean and sober today! Love to all the women! XOXO”

    • Ashley

      “Thank you to Marlies and the Posner Center because without your guidance I wouldn’t have been pushed to pursue what I love and want out of a job and school. You’re amazing!”

    • Colletta D.

      “Proud to be a donor supporter of your efforts.”

    • Sara W.

      “Wayside House saved my life. It was a place that gave me a purpose to follow my dreams. And gave me a life that I never thought could be possible. It is a place where God lives in the lives of so many recovering women. Thank you.”

    • Andrea S.

      “So many miracles and beautiful souls are at Wayside. It’s a very special place.”

    • Phoebe M.

      “What an incredible gift to have gone to Wayside House.  Keep up the great work!”

    • Kathy G.

      “I’m so grateful to be a Wayside Winner 12/89 . One day at a Time.”

    • Christine D.

      “I have to commend Wayside House. They are a 1st class treatment center.”

    • Christine A.

      “I went through Wayside House in 1991 and have been clean and sober for 23 years. I have had four children, two grandchildren, and am happily married. The aftercare and parenting groups that Wayside had is something that helped me so very much as a new parent who was fairly new in recovery. I now have a Bachelor’s degree in social work and am working on a Master’s degree in counseling specializing in addictions counseling. If I had not been placed in Wayside House so many years ago I would have never been able to achieve the things that I have in my life. I am forever grateful for the blessing it has had in my life!”

    • Jeffrey Lane Esq., Weiner, Lynne & Thompson P.A.

      “Wayside is the benchmark by which I hold other similar facilities too.”

    • John Lehman, President FARR

      “I know many women whose lives have been greatly impacted by the quality support they experienced while enrolled and residing in your program. My first hand knowledge dates back to 1980 and I can attest to Wayside’s long tradition of excellence.”

    • J.L.

      “Wayside House saved my sobriety at a critical time in my life. My HP knew I needed to be there and surrounded by strong women who believed in me. Thank you!”

    • Evelyn H.

      “ My life has changed very deeply. I have been given the gift of life in sobriety and treating it like a present.”

    • Cynthia F.

      “I hated God & tried not to believe in any higher power before getting sober. Now I know that each day is a gift and
      that all things are possible through my spiritual connection. All of life is a miracle and for the ultimate good.”

    • Liz D.

      “I just wanted to send my gratitude and thanks for all you have done for me and thousands of women out there recovering from addictions.”

    • Sally W.

      “God bless your work at Wayside.”

    • T.P.

      “Thank you for all that you have done to make me experience Wayside and the true change in my life through this program. I am grateful.”

    • Cindy

      “To all of you fortunate enough to celebrate the holidays at Wayside, I hope you find peace and happiness.
      My Christmas at Wayside was one of the best ever as I received the lasting gift of sobriety. God Bless you all!”

    • Anonymous

      “ My children have been returned and I have found God.”

    • Anonymous

      “Wayside House and God have given me a life I never thought I deserved.”

    • Anonymous

      “Wayside House played a very big role in treating our daughter. We will be forever grateful for you and our blessings from the Lord.”

    • Anonymous

      “ I have restored relationships with my family and learned how to love others. I am accountable, help and trust others and enjoy living life. I have peace and I don’t worry. I know that everything is going to be OK. I also attend three meetings a week and sponsor several women.”

    • Anonymous

      “ By spending time with my awesome God every morning who saved me by touching my life while at Wayside. God continues to draw me close to him.”

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