Needle exchange program helps dozens in York

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – A needle exchange program is helping dozens of addicts in York County.

The York Harm Reduction Project was launched in May and has given resources to about 50 people, including nine who sought treatment.

The program started in Lancaster County four years ago and eventually spread to Dauphin and York counties.

“We help people get health care things, IDs, social security cards. We take them wherever they need to go and it all starts with that conversation that no one really wants to have yet,” Ashley Koller, an outreach worker, said.

It’s a conversation that’s been tough for one heroin user, whose name will not be mentioned.

“They definitely helped point me in the right direction and that’s what I needed today, to talk to someone really,” he said.

The mobile unit waits on the street, wearing bright orange shirts.

“There’s people who will come to you who have nothing in their life right now. They’re just struggling so hard. And then you have people who have a lot and they’re still struggling with addiction,” Koller said.

The York Harm Reduction Project gives clean syringes and other resources to users. Their goal is to get people back in their homes and back to work when they are ready. Until then, they want to help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

“When a drug addict is addicted, especially to heroin, they’re going to find a way to use, whether it’s a clean needle or a dirty needle,” Melinda Zipp, the director of outreach, said.

“You do reach a point of desperate when it doesn’t matter,” the heroin user said. “I am currently on a waiting list to go to a program to start over and just put this behind me.”

“We will sit there and call every rehab we have to until we find something to get them into,” Koller said.

If you or someone you know is struggling and would like more information on the program, call Melinda Zipp at (717) 808-1084.

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