Ex-Addict Questions Effectiveness Of Needle Exchange Program

Ex-Addict Questions Effectiveness Of Needle Exchange Program

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A needle exchange program is expected to begin in Watertown in a couple of weeks, according to officials at ACR Health.

The program will be housed at 135 Franklin Street.

ACR Health is just waiting for window treatments to be put in and a few other security measures to be done.

A needle exchange program is for anyone who uses needles, whether it be for insulin, another medical use or drug use, to have a place to safely and professionally dispose of them.

ACR Health's mission is to help drug users, but a Watertown pastor who knows users and dealers isn't confident about the new program.

Reverend Jeff Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in downtown Watertown, knows what it's like to be an addict. He was addicted to heroin for 25 years. Now, clean and sober for over two decades, he has some thoughts about the new needle exchange program coming to downtown Watertown.

"I look at it as an ex-heroin addict that for me if I had clean needles that I could get on a daily basis or whatever, it would not discourage me from using heroin," he said.

ACR Health plans to begin a needle exchange program on Franklin Street in the coming weeks. The program allows anyone who uses needles for medical or drug use to dispose of them safely and get clean needles in exchange.

Programs like that are designed to help keep needles off the street - something Reverend Smith knows a lot about. In March of last year, he told 7 News how he collects used needles in the church's back parking lot daily.

But now he said, "I have not found as many needles as I did back then. I want to give credit I believe to the law enforcement because I know they have been patrolling," he said.

Even though Reverend Smith thinks this new program will help with needles being disposed of on the street, he's not convinced it will help the heroin epidemic.

"My whole mindset is to eradicate the heroin usage and the opioid usage and I don't see this going in that direction," he said.

We spoke with Julia LaVere, ACR Health's Needle Exchange Program Director over the phone. She says the point of the program is to reduce the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C.

She added that people that use the Syracuse and Utica needle exchange programs have either reduced their drug use or stopped and many are in treatment programs.

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