The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on our communities. The crisis is not only about overdoses, but also shared needles, which contribute to high rates of HIV and Hepatitis C transmissions. Our police and first responders are in danger of needle sticks on the job, and the general public is at risk from discarded needles left in unsafe places. The opioid crisis also creates a much greater need for foster care for children whose parents are fighting addiction.
United Way of Pioneer Valley has become involved where we can by connecting groups and task forces that are making some important advances in this field. Because of the relationships we have developed, we have come to understand the value of harm reduction.
We at United Way of Pioneer Valley feel strongly that harm reduction techniques such as a syringe exchange are essential components of the opioid epidemic treatment continuum, and we plan to do our share to ensure that the community receives education about the definition of harm reduction and its positive effects. Harm reduction can make some people uncomfortable because of the stigma that still follows addiction. It is important to note that syringe exchanges serve as a gateway to make a positive connection with a drug user, so when that person is ready for treatment, they have a place to get help.
We must work together to employ every available technique to treat this epidemic. A syringe exchange program was passed on February 28, 2018 in Springfield. It would be a smart, compassionate way to help people struggling with addiction, while making our entire community safer.
2015/2016 Opioid-Related Deaths by County
United Way of Pioneer Valley works with the following local Task Forces & Organizations on opioid issues: