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Virginia's Second Needle Exchange Program Opens In Richmond

Emily Westerholm says the program is more than a place to get clean hypodermic needles

Virginia’s second needle exchange program opened its doors this week in Richmond.

The first program started this July in Wise County. The latest program is at Health Brigade, a clinic off of Broad and Thompson Streets. Needle exchanges are shown to help curb the spread of disease and provide a safe place to dispose of used heroin needles. But Program Coordinator Emily Westerholm said the goal is ultimately to get intravenous drug users connected to primary health care and treatment services.

“This is just another service for folks that maybe aren’t getting assistance elsewhere,” Westerholm said. “We want them to be able to feel safe to come here. We’re not going to be asking their name. We just want them to come in and let us know what we can provide for them.”

No one showed up on the first day to participate in the program. But Westerholm says she and her colleagues are getting the word out in neighborhoods where overdose reversal drugs are being used most often. It’s not an exact science, but she says it’s pretty good indicator of where people who need the service might be.