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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Needle exchange program proposed for Seven Corners

NovaSalud is based in this building at 2946 Sleepy Hollow Road.
The Fairfax County Health Department is seeking community feedback on a “comprehensive harm-reduction program” that would allow heroin and other drug users to exchange their dirty needles for clean ones.

The needle exchange program would save lives, as dirty needles lead to the spread of HIV and hepatitis A, B, and C, says Dr. Rene Najera, an epidemiologist with the Health Department.

The exchange program would be run by NovaSalud, a health clinic in Seven Corners that conducts HIV and STD testing, among other services.

NovaSalud received a grant from an anonymous donor to develop the needle exchange program. The Health Department would help monitor and evaluate the program and provide accountability.

Najera and his staff have been reaching out to the public to explain the program at community meetings.

The next meeting will be March 17, 7-8:30 p.m. at the James Lee Community Center, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church.

The meetings are not just for drug users, Najera says. He would like to hear from community members who oppose a needle exchange program and understand their objections to a program.

“There have been more deaths in Virginia and Fairfax County from opioid overdoses than traffic accidents over the past five years,” Najera says.

In Fairfax County, there are about 100 overdose deaths a year. About half are from heroin, with or without fentanyl, and the rest are from the misuse of opioids.

People who come to SaludNova for the needle exchange program would receive counseling, other health services, help finding a job, and naloxone, a medication used to reverse an overdose.

In some cases, drug users would build relationships with healthcare providers and eventually seek treatment, Najera says.

That’s happening in Richmond and Roanoke, he says, where needle exchange programs had 292 participants, resulting in 48,000 needles exchanged over the past 18 months.

Najera predicts the program at NovaSalud will start slowly this summer and eventually grow to the point where 50 to 100 people will regularly drop by to exchange needles.

Reducing the number of addicts contributes to healthier communities, he says, as drug users are more susceptible to blood-borne communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis, which could spread among the wider population. And when dirty needles are turned in, they don’t end up in the environment.

In a community in Indiana, Najera notes, there was an “explosive epidemic” of HIV when the area was flooded with heroin and Vice President Mike Pence, who was then governor of Indiana, refused to authorize a needle exchange program on religious grounds. That health crisis didn’t end until Pence finally backed down.

The Fairfax County Police Department supports the needle exchange program in Seven Corners, Najera says. The next steps are more community dialogues and, he hopes, a green light from the Board of Supervisors.

16 comments:

  1. Would love to have that plan situated in Old town Falls church or in Fairfax city.

    Not sure why Seven Corners need to host a location for such a program

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    1. Because we are the dump, plain and simple. Although I believe in the program, putting it adjacent to one of our better neighborhoods would ensure an uptick in property values...NOT!

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    2. As always,
      we an count on our elected public servants to do their best for our area...

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  2. The idea that community outreach has occurred is a bit ludicrous to me. Since I've seen this article, I've started reaching out to some other community association leaders in the vicinity of the proposed location, and no one has heard of this until this blog post.

    I'm holding off on any judgments on the merits of the program... just saying that if they are going to claim they are trying to reach out to the community, maybe they should actually - you know - reach out to the community.

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    1. They had two community meetings -- both listed on the blog calendar -- and hope to schedule more.

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  3. Enabling drug addicts; that's great.
    There's just too many of us. The Coronavirus & drug abuse are definitely helping with population control.

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  4. Why wouldn't you put this facility near the people that need it? Not a lot of needle abusers in Sleepy Hollow. 50 to 100 people regularly dropping by is a large number of people hopping on buses, etc. to get there. Presumably the majority of these people don't have their own transportation.

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    1. I am curious about your source of information when you say that there are not a lot of drug abusers in Seven Corners? There are a lot of assumptions in your comment.

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  5. This is a terrible idea. The proposed location at the top of Sleepy Hollow is near several quiet, single family neighborhoods and an elementary school. Why draw-in drug addicts and eventually, drug pushers, too? Before you know it, they will set up camp around the area -- especially on sidewalks (new ones planned up and down Sleepy Hollow) and there will be no recourse for eviction.

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  6. It is time to start making some noise about it

    This is NOT suitable for neighborhoods with children.

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  7. This sounds like another bad idea from your current supervisor. And why did you all vote for her?

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  8. Terrible location. Seems like this building was chosen only for the convenience of Dr. Najera, not necessarily where the "need" may be. "The Fairfax County Police Department supports the needle exchange program in Seven Corners, Najera says. Seven Corners as compared to where? There are no "pedestrian-friendly"routes to that location except through residential neighborhoods.

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  9. News of this proposed program and the community meeting is missing from the newsletters distributed by Supervisor Penny Gross.

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  10. Needle exchange programs are a terrific, lifesaving resource. Thank you.

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  11. News about the dirty needle exchange program or any of the meetings is conspicuously missing from the two recent newsletters distributed by Supervisor Gross.

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  12. Since Dr. Najera is an epidemiologist, he should know that the meeting must be cancelled due to COVID19. No more than 10 people at an event is the new dictate.

    A needle exchange program should be county operated from the shiny new Merrifield clinic, not 2 blocks from an elementary school and not next to residential communities.

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