Syringe Exchange Program Exceeds Goals; is Huge Success for North Dakota

Local News

Former Participant Shares Story

One local healthcare facility is hard at work to reduce diseases spread from used needles. We have an update on the Mandan Good Neighbor Project.

Custer Health began the project to provide clean injection supplies. But it’s much more than a place to go for a clean needle, the program also provides education about reducing harm, and helps refer their members to recovery resources when they’re ready.

KX News sat down with a former patient who started exchanging needles at Custer Health last fall.

The anonymous former participant shares, “I had no intention of getting clean at the time. I was at the height of my addiction, thought I was unstoppable.”

He wanted to remain anonymous while sharing his story.

He adds, “I made the decision to start using needles a couple of months earlier and they’re really hard to find. And I had one scare where I bought some, and got back home and was going to use one, and there was old blood in it. He was selling it as a new, clean needle.”

In fact, 54 percent of people who have enrolled in Custer Health’s program tested positive for Hepatitis C when they came in.

The anonymous participant explains, “That’s an afterthought. That doesn’t matter at the time when you need the drug.”

The positive, according to the lead nurse with the program, is that anyone who tested negative when they first came in, has stayed negative.

The nurse, Jenn Pelster adds, “Which is what we like to see, and one of the main goals of the program.”

Four months ago, our anonymous patient decided to let go of methamphetamines. He wanted to be clean.

He shares, “And I just burst out in tears that day, and I just sat there with the nurses, looking at different ways to make that happen.”

Within the first 12 months of the program, Custer Health surpassed its five-year goal of about 125 participants. They now have 209 enrolled members.

Pelster shares, “They have that support system, and someone to walk them down that road as to how to get the ball rolling, because a lot of them are scared, and they don’t have that support system.”

The patient who shared his story is not alone in his success.

Here are some great statistics:

Since enrolling in the program, 45 percent have decreased their drug injection use.

59 percent have stopped sharing used needles and injection supplies.

238 doses of Naloxone were distributed out of Custer Health to save lives.

As of August 1st, the program hours will be changed to better suit the community’s needs.

Right now the Mandan Good Neighbor Project runs on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The new hours will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 1 and 4 p.m.

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