Needle exchange programs are now legal in New Hampshire. But since the state is providing no financial support or other resources for them, some groups are wondering how to go about starting one.
One group in Strafford County is taking on that guiding role.
Kevin Irwin heads the New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition and has worked in syringe programs for over 25 years national and worldwide. On Friday he led a tutorial session in Concord that was open to the public on how exactly to open a syringe exchange in the Granite State.
“The whole idea here really is if you want to start up syringe service program you should be able to walk out of here today with the information that you need to do that and if you don’t have all the information you will know where to get the information and support to do that,” Irwin told the crowd.
More than 40 people came to the 2-hour session traveling from Manchester, Nashua, Lebanon, and the North Country.
Irwin offered advice on things like how to make services easy to access and maintain clients’ privacy. He also touched on some don’ts – like not limiting the number of syringes per client, not requiring a one-for-one exchange of needles and not using a single statewide model.
“If you try to do in Littleton what you are doing in Nashua – it ain't gonna work. Be responsive to your local community. It’s a community health problem, the community has the answers,” Irwin said, adding that models can range from brick-and-mortar, mobile vans, tents to street outreach.
So far New Hampshire has two needle exchange programs: in Dover and Claremont.