Public Health Heroes: Needle Exchange Team

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Needle Exchange Team

When SEP began in 1994, Baltimore’s HIV infection rate from intravenous drug use hovered around 64 percent; today, that number is below eight percent. In addition to providing clean syringes, SEP offers health services that include wound care, health education, HIV and STD testing, women’s productive health services, and vaccines for a host of diseases. In 2017, SEP distributed 1.5 million unused syringes and provided services to nearly 4,000 clients.

In 2004, SEP became the first organization in Maryland to educate the Baltimore community and distribute naloxone, the opioid reversal medication.  SEP has educated 6,500 Baltimoreans, distributed nearly 6,800 naloxone kits, and reversed nearly 800 overdoses through its mobile unit and the Staying Alive Opioid Overdose Education and Prevention Program.

“An opioid overdose can happen to anyone anywhere; this issue is not just impacting the lives of people dealing with substance use disorder, this is a public health issue that affects everyone," said SEP Assistant Manager Lisa Parker. “It is important to understand that anyone regardless of socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity can be impacted by this epidemic and it is important to educate people about the signs of an opioid overdose, how to recognize those signs, what naloxone is and how to administer this life saving drug.”

Parker says her small team of 12 people accomplishes a lot and enjoys the work that they do.  The group continues to educate and engage the community by offering comprehensive and supportive services that leave a lasting positive impact on the public’s health and wellness.

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