On December 13th, the Leon County Commission approved an agreement with Big Bend Cares, Inc. to serve as the operator of a new syringe exchange program (SEP). The SEP is governed by Florida law, which was amended in 2019 to permit a county commission to authorize an SEP within county boundaries.
According to the staff agenda, the goal of the program is to prevent the spread of disease. The SEP will provide free exchange of clean needles and hypodermic syringes for used needles and hypodermic syringes with the purpose of preventing HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis and other diseases that can be commonly spread by injection drug users.
In addition to providing clean needles, an SEP must also provide educational materials, onsite counselling or referrals for drug abuse prevention, education, treatment and kits that contain an emergency opioid antagonist (Naloxone) for the use of a complete/partial reverse of an opioid overdose or give a referral to a program that can provide these kits.
Big Bend Cares, Inc. plans to organize services for the SEP through a mobile health unit which will also serve to provide health care services in high poverty neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include, Frenchtown, Bond, Griffin Heights, and South City. These services will be provided around three times a week. Big Bend Cares will operate the SEP on the remaining days when the mobile health unit is not being used as an access for health care service.
Florida law prohibits the use of state, local or city funds to operate an SEP. For this reason, Big Bend Cares will utilize private funding sources to operate the mobile unit.
The program will begin in the summer of 2023.