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SOAR to halt needle exchange services

An organization that provides clean needles to those struggling with addiction has decided to...
An organization that provides clean needles to those struggling with addiction has decided to halt services on Charleston's West Side.
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - An organization that provides clean needles to those struggling with addiction has decided to halt services on the city’s West Side.

That’s according to a post on Solutions Oriented Addiction Recovery’s (SOAR’s) Facebook page.

“We are listening to our Black neighbors here on the West Side. For those reasons, we decided to suspend our traditional health fair last Saturday. We will continue that suspension while we participate in a series of conversations with faith and community leaders in the next couple weeks (and beyond) to improve our services. We regret not having these conversations sooner.”

WSAZ has reached out to SOAR to get more information about the decision and where they plan to go from here.

The decision comes at a time when HARM reduction programs like needle distribution and exchange programs are being debated in the city of Charleston.

City Council members are considering an ordinance that would create regulations for HARM reduction programs including one-for-one distribution, some sort of tracking system on the needles. The discussion is expected to resume at the Council meeting on April 19.

City leaders said in part, they wanted to wait before making a decision as state lawmakers are also debating legislation that would create a framework and regulations for a HARM reduction programs throughout West Virginia.

Needles not being properly disposed of were a major factor in a decision to close a program previously run by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Advocates say that HARM reduction programs help to cut down on the spread of disease by people who share needles.

Currently, Kanawha County’s rate of HIV has been labeled as “concerning” by the Centers for Disease Control. United States Senators Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, have reached out to the CDC requesting more information on the numbers. In the letter they asked to have a response by April 9.

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