Bread For the City provides the opportunity for clients to participate in a contraversial program called the Needle Exchange program, where IV drug users can exchange their needles for clean ones at our clinic. One of my intake clients today was a user of the clinic. One side says that this would mean addicts would have free and easy access to needles, where as on the streets they are sold for a certain price. True, and Bread definetly uses this fact as an incentive to bring people into the program. The other side is that by providing users with clean needles BFC is maintaining disease control and getting dirty needles off the street. In 2009, BFC distributed $300,000 worth of needles for dirty needles, and they had a 96% exchange rate. The deal is that consumers bring in their old needles in their own personal containers (which are then disposed of with other biohazard waste) in order to get a new one. Another motive of this program is that the people who come in are also linked up with medical care at the clinic, which is another step in the right direction. Most of these people may have never experienced this kind of contact, and may have never found it if it was not for this program. Health care is a necessity that can help better their quality of life, and so this contact is very important. It is clear this program proves beneficial to our clients.

Vince, head of the program at Bread, says that one of the largest misconceptions of the clients who come in to use the needle exchange is that “they do not care about their personal wellbeing.” Clients who come in often opt to participate in the free HIV tests, and sign up for future care at the medical clinic. Although these persons have unhealthy habits, most clients still care about their health in other ways. At Bread, we hope that this program will bridge the gap from being a safe user, to becoming healthier individuals, to finally feeling like they are in a position to go through detox. But as Vince said, “this takes time.”