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DAP set to start needle-exchange as part of addiction reduction program

DAP Health will unveil its Harm Reduction Program that will have two components when it launches in April. First, Overdose prevention and secondly a Syringe Services Program (SSP) that will include health services and behavioral health support to combat the rise in preventable overdoses and the increase in new HIV cases.  

C.J Tobe, Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness said, “it’s going to be the second state authorized syringe service program in the county and the first one here in the Coachella Valley.” 

"I’m so excited that we’re finally going to be able to do this. It’s going to be a big win for the community and it’s going to change the lives of so many people," Tobe added.

DAP Health mobile clinic

The multi-layered program will focus on education for the community, HIV and Hepatitis C testing, distribution and collection of syringes and referrals to support individuals through their addiction journey. Tobe said “it’s been the most proven effective intervention against HIV and Hepatitis C.” 

DAP will also be providing Naloxone/Narcan through its mobile clinic to reverse overdose and prevent death, and Fentanyl test strips for testing drugs before use to decrease likelihood of Fentanyl poisoning.

The services come amid a nationwide opioid epidemic that has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 100,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses during the 12-month period from April 2020 through April 2021.

In Riverside County, there has been an 800 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths since 2016. Palm Springs has an overdose death rate 300% higher than the state average.   

Palm Springs Police Department Chief Andy Mills had the opportunity to tour the Harm Reduction Program and was impressed with how complete it is. “I have a great deal of confidence in DAPs ability to execute a mission such as this,” Mills said. “That’s what excites me. Not only is DAP Health looking at helping people, but genuinely helping people so they are not destructive to themselves or our community.”  

Andrew Mills, Chief of Police, Palm Springs

Mills acknowledged there may be concern among members of the community about whether the program could encourage more drug use. He said he shares the same concerns and does not want to encourage more drug use. "But at the same time, the value of human life  is our highest priority. When people are dying at record numbers from fentanyl overdoses, the exposure to the greater community, such as our police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who are giving Narcan to people to keep them alive, I’m very concerned, that we want to do what we can to protect a lot of our folks from harm," explained Mills.

Mills added, "when DAP is allowed to speak to these folks, help them out, get them into a position where they are willing to listen and willing to take the help that DAP can offer -- I think thats the big win."

He noted that he recently read that there were over 100,000 deaths in the United State to fentanyl overdose every year and he believes "it would be extraordinarily higher" if it weren't for Narcan "because officers are giving Narcan" to people and saving lives. Mills said his department will "continue to monitor" the program and "if we see an uptick in needles in public space, such as parks and places where people congregate, that's not going to be acceptable and I will communicate with DAP and others to make sure that we don't see a mass distribution of needles."

DAP Health is only the second state certified Syringe Services Program (SSP) in Riverside County, which is the 10th most populated county in the United States.   
 
“DAP Health will begin deepening our relationship with people living with addiction by adding a harm reduction approach to our first-aid kit of solutions,” said C.J. Tobe, the Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness.

“We will do this without stigma or judgment because you cannot treat someone who does not trust you. Harm reduction is an important tactic in DAP Health’s ongoing work to end the HIV epidemic. Work that begins with meeting folks where they are," Tobe added.

DAP has provided a list of the services that will be available to anyone seeking help for addiction:

Education 

  • Overdose prevention  
  • Safer injecting  
  • Risk reduction counseling  
  • Education to community partners  

Testing 

  • Free HIV/HCV testing  
  • Fentanyl strips for testing drugs before use to decrease likelihood of overdose  

Equipment 

  • Naloxone/Narcan to reverse overdose and prevent death  
  • Phone number and email to DAP Health for the community to report used syringes that need to be picked up and disposed of, or to request education related to harm reduction strategies at HarmReduction@DAPHealth.org or 760 992-0453.  
  • New syringes and intake/dispose of used syringes  
  • New injecting supplies  
  • Safer sex kits   
  • Safer smoking kits  

Referrals To

  • Substance use counselors  
  • Outpatient Drug Free program DAP Health  
  • Local recovery and treatment centers  
  • DAP Health’s peer support specialist  
  • Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) for anyone with HIV and/or Hepatitis C for treatment  
  • Insurance enrollment and connection to health care and other social support services  
  • DAP Health’s Sexual Wellness Clinic (Orange Clinic) for STI testing and/or Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)  
  • Food and housing   

FENTANYL FACTS 

100,000 – The number of overdose deaths over a 12-month period between 2020-21, ending in April 2021. Of those overdose deaths, 75,673 were from an opioid overdose. During that same period a year ago, there were 78,056 deaths, with 56,064 from opioids, according to the CDC.  

2 – Milligrams of fentanyl to be potentially lethal. For comparison purposes, it takes 5,000 milligrams to make a teaspoon.   

80-100 – Times fentanyl is more potent than morphine  

50 – Times Fentanyl is more potent than heroin  

Pharmaceutical Fentanyl – Prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer  

Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl – Distributed through illegal drug markets, it’s popular for its heroin-like effects. It’s often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes the drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive and more dangerous. It can be found in both powder and liquid forms.   

Powdered Fentanyl: Powdered Fentanyl is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and made into pills to resemble other prescription drugs. Because of this, people can be unaware their drugs are laced with fentanyl.   

Liquid Fentanyl: It can be found in nasal sprays, eye drops and dropped onto paper or small candies.   

STREET NAMES FOR IMF INCLUDES:   

  • Apache  
  • Dance Fever  
  • Friend  
  • Goodfellas  
  • Jackpot  
  • Murder 8  
  • Tango & Cash   

SIGNS OF FENTANYL OVERDOSE 

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”  
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness  
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing  
  • Choking or gurgling sounds  
  • Limp body  
  • Cold and/or clammy skin  
  • Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)  

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT OD 

  • Call 911 immediately  
  • Administer naloxone if available   
  • Try to keep the person awake and breathing  
  • Lay the person on their side to prevent choking  
  • Stay with the person until emergency assistance arrives   

*Most states have laws that may protect a person who is overdosing or the person who called for help from legal trouble.  

** Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and save lives. It is available in all 50 states and can be purchased from a local pharmacy without a prescription in most states.  

WHY TEST FOR FENTANYL 

Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl unless you test your drugs with fentanyl test strips.  

Test strips are inexpensive and typically give results within 5 minutes, which can be the difference between life or death. Even if the test is negative, take caution as test strips might not detect more potent fentanyl-like drugs, like carfentanil.  

Stay with News Channel for continuing updates.

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3

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