Point of access

New Points syringe service program opens in Marquette, offers resources, sterile supplies to reduce infections from IV drug use

Sterile injection supplies are pictured. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Health Department’s New Points syringe service program, which has been offered at the Upper Great Lakes Sawyer Family Health Center in K.I. Sawyer since September, is now available in Marquette.

Starting today, the free and confidential syringe service program will be offered by the Marquette County Health Department from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. each Tuesday on a walk-in basis at Pathways Community Mental Health, located at 200 W. Spring St., Marquette.

“The program’s been going great, operating smoothly. So we’re really excited to open a site in Marquette to be able to service some of our participants that are having to travel, as well as the ones that are not able to access us at all in Sawyer,” said Emily Pratt, New Points project coordinator for the Marquette County Health Department. “Hopefully this is another opportunity for participants to connect with our syringe service program.”

New Points aims to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C by providing sterile injection supplies for people who are using controlled substances intravenously, she said.

The program also offers safe disposal for used syringes and needles — including sharps containers participants can take with them — as well as education and referral to medical, mental health and recovery services. Officials said they hope to start offering HIV and hepatitis C testing soon.

The sign for Pathways Community Mental Health along West Spring Street in Marquette is pictured. New Points, a syringe service program operated by the Marquette County Health Department, will be available Tuesday afternoons at Pathways Community Mental Health in Marquette, starting today. The free, confidential program can be accessed on a walk-in basis from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday at Pathways in Marquette. The program aims to reduce blood borne infections in the community by offering sterile injection supplies and safe syringe disposal methods for people who are using controlled substances intravenously. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

Syringe service programs are an evidence-based approach to community health, Pratt said, emphasizing that the programs don’t increase crime or the use of IV drugs in the communities served — rather, research has shown programs of this type can have an overall beneficial impact on community health, helping to reduce drug use and new infections.

“This program is already helping the residents of Marquette County. We have taken in many used needles for safe disposals, helped prevent overdoses and have a decreased risk of blood borne infections for everyone,” Pratt said in a press release. “We are all healthier and safer as a community when individuals with substance use disorder are brought into the medical and behavioral healthcare systems and offered the tools they need to make healthier choices. Syringe services programs are a proven, effective, public health strategy to provide these tools.”

Offering the syringe service program at Pathways and the Upper Great Lakes Sawyer Family Health Center in K.I. Sawyer can also help participants connect with healthcare and treatment resources if they wish, officials said, as the “overarching goal for SSPs is to bring people into the general and behavioral healthcare system and assist them in moving toward recovery.”

“We can link them to any other community services that might be beneficial to our participants,” Pratt said. “Medical care, any kind of health care, other social services, and then of course, any treatment services or recovery, if and when they’re ready for that,” Pratt said.

An overdose prevention program — which provides naloxone and training on how to administer it to someone who is suffering from an overdose — is also offered through the syringe service program.

“We provide that in conjunction with overdose prevention education and that’s offered to, of course, our participants, but that could also be relevant to friends or family of someone who is at risk for overdose,” Pratt said.

The syringe services program is needed locally, as “Marquette County, like much of the country, is experiencing an epidemic of opioid use,” officials said.

Furthermore, the “the Upper Peninsula, as a region, has the highest hepatitis C rate for young adults in the entire state of Michigan,” Marquette County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Teresa Frankovich said in a press release.

“The vast majority of our young adults with hepatitis C have acquired it through intravenous drug use and the sharing of needles,” Frankovich said. “These same individuals are at very high risk of acquiring and spreading HIV. SSPs have been shown to decrease the spread of these infections in the communities they serve.”

Programs such as New Points can help to address this, organizers said, as syringe service programs have been shown to reduce new HIV and hepatitis infections by limiting injection equipment sharing.

Syringe service programs have also been found to reduce overdose deaths; reduce needle stick injuries among local law enforcement; reduce health care costs and reduce drug use by “succeeding in getting more people to enter into drug treatment and to stop injecting drugs,” officials said.

“Syringe service programs are a public health approach utilizing a harm reduction model to provide care and services to our target population, which is intravenous drug users,” Pratt said. “And our overarching goal is to reduce the risk of illness to our participants; but also to the community as a whole.”

The program is supported by funding from the Michgan Department of Health and Human Services and the NorthCare Network.

The syringe service program at Pathways is housed in a small room off the building’s lobby/check-in area. Organizers encourage those driving to the program to be mindful of parking restrictions in the area, noting free and metered parking is available along Spring Street and in the Marquette Commons Lot.

The syringe service program is also offered on walk-in basis 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays at the Upper Great Lakes Sawyer Family Health Center, located at 301 Explorer St., in Gwinn.

For more information on the program, call Pratt at 906-315-2630.