Just one month (and one day) ago, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department held its first syringe exchange/harm reduction session at the department, meant to steer addicts toward services and screenings they would likely never have felt welcome to seek out in another setting. It was the result of months of planning and several state and local partnerships, and that first Wednesday saw a good showing — in its designated two-hour, once-a-week window, the health department saw 15 patients.
Response to the program has only grown, according to Dr. Michael Kilkenny, the health officer for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department — yesterday the clinic saw 54 patients, and was forced to extend its visits an extra hour to accommodate them all. In all, the health department has provided 143 services to 111 individual patients since its start just one month ago, and the interest in services beyond the syringe exchange is slowly growing — more than one patient is now on a waiting list to enter rehabilitation, Kilkenny said.
“We’re seeing more engagement with our other services,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of potential to grow, and we’re really hopeful — the recovery coaches always seem like they’re talking to someone, and conversation is where it starts.”
The health department’s harm reduction visits so far:
Sept. 2: 15 patients
Sept. 9: 32 patients
Sept. 16: 42 patients
Sept. 23: 54 patients
Note for Sept. 23: of the 54 patients seen yesterday, 34 of them were new, and 20 returning patients, according to Kilkenny.
Of course, the program is just getting started, and Kilkenny expects more expansion in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.