Multnomah Co. needle exchange program includes life saving train - KPTV - FOX 12

Multnomah Co. needle exchange program includes life saving training

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The number of people using Multnomah County’s needle exchange program is growing, and now the county is training many of those people to reverse overdoses.

Close to 5,800 people used the needle exchange programs through county and at Outside In, a social services agency, last year, an increase of 19 percent over the year before. County health staffers attribute the jump to growing heroin and prescription drug abuse.

The county’s syringe exchange operates out of a van that moves to different locations throughout the week.

People can swap used needles for clean ones and get a medication called naloxone that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. County officials said the needle exchange can help to prevent communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, as well as other infections like staph, MRSA and abscesses.

Last summer, county staffers started training people how to administer the medication and help people who are overdosing, and since then people have reported 255 overdose reversals to the county. Outside In staff began similar training in the summer of 2013.

Erin Browne, a community health specialist for Multnomah County, said the community’s response to the training has been “amazing,” with over 2,000 people trained between county staff and teams from Outside In.

“We have clients out there in the rain, the heat and the cold who are willing to stand out there and get trained to save someone else’s life,” she said. “And getting to be part of that’s pretty amazing.”

A new law goes into effect in 2016 that county staff claim may save more lives. The so-called “Good Samaritan” law protects people from being arrested for certain crimes if they’re getting help for a drug-related overdose.

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