Needle exchange program saving lives in San Antonio, organization says

Program goal is to reduce harm, while also building a connection with those that need help

SAN ANTONIO – One organization in San San Antonio is helping active drug users get clean by using a different approach.

Harm reduction is a proactive and evidence-based approach to reduce negative personal and public health impacts related with alcohol and other substance use -- both at the individual and community levels, according to Corazon San Antonio.

Corazon San Antonio’s harm reduction team incorporates a spectrum of strategies that meet people on their own terms, and can serve as a pathway to additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

“They’re actively using already, so we’re not enabling, we’re encouraging them to come and get services,” Del Fin said.

Services includes a needle for needle exchange, to help get dirty needles off the street, in the hopes of reducing infection.

Harm reduction specialist Claudia Del Fin said in her testing of actively using people, 90% are positive for Hepatitis C and 30-40% are positive for HIV.

The program goal is to reduce harm, while also building a connection with those they help. The program makes it easier for individuals to try and get clean when they are ready.

Corazon San Antonio has been doing outreach six days a week for about three months and they say they’ve had a 50% success rate. Not everyone enters into detox, but many have accepted some sort of social service.

Harm reduction is a different way of addressing the public health problem involving substance use, as well as infectious disease and other harms associated with drug use. Specifically, harm reduction services can:

  • Connect individuals to overdose education, counseling, and referral to treatment for infectious diseases and substance use disorders.
  • Distribute opioid overdose reversal medications to individuals at risk of overdose, or to those who might respond to an overdose.
  • Lessen harms associated with drug use and related behaviors that increase the risk of infectious diseases, including HIV, viral hepatitis, and bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Reduce infectious disease transmission among people who use drugs, including those who inject drugs by equipping them with accurate information and facilitating referral to resources.
  • Reduce overdose deaths, promote linkages to care, facilitate co-location of services as part of a comprehensive, integrated approach.
  • Reduce stigma associated with substance use and co-occurring disorders
  • Promote a philosophy of hope and healing by utilizing those with lived experience of recovery in the management of harm reduction services, and connecting those who have expressed interest to treatment, peer support workers and other recovery support services.

About the Author:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.