Syringe Exchange Program opens third testing site, mobile testing unit
Since opening in June 2015, Volunteers of America's Syringe Exchange Program has been providing a vital service to Louisville-area residents who have difficulty traveling to the permanent exchange site in downtown Louisville. The goal of the exchange program is to reduce exposure to HIV and Hepatitis C among at-risk populations and to direct those with heroin addiction to treatment options, meeting the clients where they are in their battle with addiction.
In partnership with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) and under the leadership of Program Manager and harm-reduction specialist Donald Davis, Volunteers of America opened our third exchange site at Reedemer Lutheran Church in West Louisville last month.
"It's important to understand that in a metropolitan area as spread out as Louisville is, you have to go out and reach your participants because they are not all going to be able to get downtown," Donald said. "We have to spread out over the whole city."
The Syringe Exchange Program has served nearly 5,000 individual visitors since opening. More than 200 visitors have been referred to treatment by the exchange program's certified addiction counselor. According to Louisville's health department, in October, visitors returned 80 percent of the number of new, clean syringes distributed.
While our pop-up community exchange sites have been successful in reaching many people at-risk of HIV and Hepatitis C, the program was in need of a more private, accessible space to offer our services at these community sites. With support from the Kentuckiana AIDS Alliance and Broadway Cares, we were able to purchase an RV (pictured above) to better meet the needs of exchange visitors. The RV has been customized to optimize the space to allow for confidential HIV and Hepatitis C testing and referrals to recovery services.
"The RV works really well. I've been doing harm reduction for 20 years and we used an RV in New York and Michigan where I started this work. RVs are good because everything can be done right there," Donald said.
The RV also provides the opportunity for Volunteers of America to bring our Syringe Exchange Program to other neighborhoods and areas of the city that need help reaching people at risk of being exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C.
"These drugs are everywhere. There's a lot of heroin use everywhere – no council district or neighborhood is exempt," Donald said.
For more information about the Syringe Exchange Program and our Community Exchange Sites, visit https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness/syringe-exchange-program.