Many people are saying that it’s great that Winston-Salem has a needle-exchange program meant to reduce health risks for drug users, but many are also asking whether the service or others like it belongs in residential neighborhoods.
That’s a question the city will wrestle with over the coming months, even as the Twin City Harm Reduction Collective continues to operate the exchange program from Green Street United Methodist Church in the West Salem neighborhood.
Colin Miller, the founder of the collective, told Winston-Salem City Council members recently that the service here has distributed more than 4,000 clean syringes and collected almost 2,800 dirty ones in the program’s short existence since December.
Legislation passed in 2016 by the N.C. General Assembly authorized the creation of exchange programs like the one here. In addition to clean needles, the program also provides kits to treat drug overdoses and multiple treatment referrals.
Miller himself is a former drug user.
“The public-health benefits speak for themselves,” Miller said, adding that statistics show that people are more likely to look for treatment if they have access to exchanges such as the one here. “I could never have gotten sober if it were not for the people who work in harm-reduction clinics. … I needed a heck of a lot of help.”
Miller said people in the neighborhood have no reason to fear the needle-exchange. For starters, he said, there’s little walk-in traffic because most users drive cars. Some users who live in the neighborhood may come on foot, but on a busy day, he said, a total of four or five people might come in for needles.
“People get their stuff and leave,” Miller said. “They don’t hang around, and people walk them back to their car.”
The city is considering an ordinance that would restrict needle…