Clatsop County public health officials stood by with plenty of clean needles Thursday afternoon and were ready to exchange them with anyone in possession of a used one. But they went home at the end of the day with the same stock.
Public Health Director Michael McNickle, Public Health Nurse Sheri Salber and Kerry Strickland, founder of Jordan’s Hope for Recovery, hosted the first in a series of needle exchange opportunities at Peoples Park in Astoria. They found that illegal drug users are hesitant.
McNickle said it would take time to develop trust. He spoke to people earlier this week who may be able to spread word, handing out a number of informational cards.
“We’ve had a few interested people but no takers so far,” McNickle said. “It’s all about building trust. We want people to know we’re not going to arrest them or do anything like that.”
The six-month pilot program offers drug users the ability to trade used needles in a one-for-one exchange. Exchange sites Thursday were located at 16th Street and Marine Drive in Astoria as well as the Knappa Fire District Station. Staffers operated the first exchange site in Astoria early in the afternoon before eventually heading to Knappa.
The county Board of Commissioners approved the program in August. The outreach is funded through a $50,000 donation from the Friends of Columbia Community Health.
The health department will explore potential exchange locations along the Astoria riverfront, a well-known hangout spot for drug users, and throughout the county, including Seaside. Events are scheduled to take place each Thursday for the duration of the program.