Injection Drug Users Have New Medicinal Treatment Options In Lane Co.
HIV Alliance has launched a Medication Assisted Treatment (MET) program for people who inject illicit drugs in Lane County.
Suboxone is a medicine found effective in reducing withdrawal in users. It’s a blend of the overdose reversal drug Noloxone and the opioid medication Buprenorphine. It’s a pill taken 12 to 36 hours after their last hit—and then regularly.
Each year, HIV Alliance serves up to 3,000 residents through their syringe exchange program and hundreds more through outreach programs. Executive Director Renee Yandel described one client needing help.
“This is a person who was previously injecting heroin that was purchased on the street so they are at incredible risk for overdose,” she said. “They are at an incredible risk for HIV. They are at an incredible risk for other injection related infections. And all of that is mitigated by using this treatment.”
Yandel said anyone ready to get off injection drugs can call the HIV Alliance clinic and talk with a peer about getting started.
Yandell said her agency decided to launch the Suboxone treatment program while seeing continued increase in syringe exchange utilization, especially during the pandemic.
She said the stress related to shut-downs exacerbated addiction issues. The Oregon Health Authority reported a 70% increase in overdoses in March and April 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
Yandell sees HIV Alliance’s MET program as a stabilizing bridge, not an end all be all. But, she said it’s important for her agency to be prepared and available to help clients who are ready, right now, to safely wean off injection drugs.
“When you get that window with someone and they say, ‘yes, I’m interested in medication assisted treatments,’ and then you have to jump through some hoops to get them into somewhere—you can lose people. And that has been the unfortunate situation,” she said. “So this is really to get them in quickly-- low barrier-- and then help them bridge to something more long term.”
For more information on the program, click here.
The phone number for the HIV Alliance Clinic is 541-342-5394.