St. Paul starts new syringe exchange program

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 22, 2018

ST. PAUL — A new downtown St. Paul syringe exchange may be a sign that some local governments are embracing once controversial measures in dealing with the country’s opioid epidemic.

The syringe exchange in Ramsey County’s main clinic opened earlier this month. People who visit the clinic can get clean syringes, as well as a safe injection kit that contains tourniquets and cookers, which are used to dissolve drugs.

“Our policy is that we have a one to one-plus-10 rule, so if someone comes in with 10 syringes then we give them 20, if they come in with no syringes we give them 10,” said Hilary Zander, who runs the free and anonymous service. “For every 10 syringes, they get one of the safe injection kits.”

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The clinic also has HIV and hepatitis C tests, as well as naloxone, a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose, she said.

Zander said the clinic aims to be an access point for people who are marginalized and don’t have access to traditional medical care and clinics.

“Our initial goal of our program is to establish trust with clients, we want to make clients feel safe and comfortable, know that there are people who can connect them to services, give them the education and the information that they need, and just help to meet them right where they are right now,” Zander said.

The county received a five-year grant to run the syringe exchange service for $125,000 annually.