By Michelle Ward
Harm reduction “refers to a range of public health policies designed to lessen the negative social and/or physical consequences associated with various human behaviors, both legal and illegal” (Wikipedia.org). Harm reduction helps meet people where they are while encouraging health and safety, which in turn supports individual recovery efforts and community health overall.
In 2020, the Southeast Utah Health Department (SEUHD) created the Southeast Disease Prevention Program. This program began in Carbon County in March of 2020. The program averaged approximately 3,500 syringes exchanges per month in the past year. Just in Carbon County, about 150 people are being served and that number is growing.
We also created a media campaign to reduce stigma surrounding substance use disorder (SUD) called Cure the Conversation, which can be found at curetheconvo.org. The Facebook page Southeast Disease Prevention was also created.
Here at SEUHD, we offer a range of services. Some services that reduce the spread of disease as well as encourage health and wellness throughout our communities are as follows:
- Syringe exchange is a mobile service where we go out to the public to exchange used syringes for new ones. We also offer syringe exchange in-office.
- We offer free HIV/HCV testing, with results given in 20 minutes. We set up follow-up confirmatory testing for those who test positive along with resources and education about HCV/HIV.
- We provide wound care kits that contain gauze, bandages, ointment, sterile water, and, when available, hand sanitizer wipes.
- We have a small pantry of non-perishable food items for those in need.
- Hygiene care kits are available for men and women that contain shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, feminine pads, razors, condoms and lube.
- Narcan kits and Fentanyl test strips are available to anybody without a prescription, no questions asked. It is highly recommended that anybody with a opioid prescription have a Narcan kit on hand.
If someone you know is interested in finding out more about our program, contact Michelle Ward, Opioid Prevention Specialist at Southeast Health Department, or visit us at the Southeast Utah Health Department located at 28 South 100 East, Price, Utah 84501. Interested parties can also call either the SEUHD office at (435) 636-1157 or Ward’s cell phone at (435) 609-0807.
Learn more about how you can help make a difference in the opioid crisis by registering to attend an upcoming Community Education Dinner (Feb. 10 for Emery County residents or March 24 for Carbon County residents) or viewing the online resource booklet with recovery resources at: extension.usu.edu/heart/community-education-dinner