Clallam County Health Officer Chris Frank tells more than 30 people who attended the recent Port Angeles Citizens Action Network forum that the county’s harm reduction efforts, such as the syringe exchange and distribution of naloxone, prevents the spread of disease and saves lives. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County Health Officer Chris Frank tells more than 30 people who attended the recent Port Angeles Citizens Action Network forum that the county’s harm reduction efforts, such as the syringe exchange and distribution of naloxone, prevents the spread of disease and saves lives. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam health officer highlights needle exchange’s progress

PORT ANGELES — About 400 people in Clallam County use the county’s syringe exchange, which is intended to save lives and reduce the risk of spreading disease.

“We try to prevent overdoses because you can’t help anyone when they’re dead,” Clallam County Health Officer Chris Frank told more than 30 people at a recent Port Angeles Citizens Action Network forum on opioids and HIV.

Last year, the exchange handed out 234,270 needles.

At the exchange, clients can get tested for HIV and hepatitis C, which can both be spread through sharing needles.

The test for hepatitis C takes about 15 minutes and clients are encouraged to get tested annually.

By letting intravenous drug users know if they have a disease, it reduces the risk of it being spread to others in the community, he said.

“People are using with friends and family,” Frank said at the Thursday gathering. “Just because someone is using doesn’t mean they don’t care about the people around them.”

The majority of people who use the exchange are doing what Frank called “secondary exchanges,” meaning they collect the used needles from their group of drug users and exchange for the group.

In 2016, the county switched to exchanging needles on a one-to-one basis, causing the number of needles handed out to decrease from 284,395 in 2015 to 234,270 in 2016. In 2014, the county gave away 273,959 needles.

Jefferson County’s syringe exchange gave out 35,328 needles in 2015. Numbers for 2016 weren’t yet available.

Frank said if the exchanges didn’t provide clean needles, users would just share dirty needles and use anyway.

“You give people clean needles so you don’t have people passing around dirty needles,” he said.

The Clallam County exchange also provides naloxone for opioid users, a drug that rapidly counteracts the effects of opioid overdose.

Naloxone might be attributing to the county’s decline of reported overdoses, he said, though it’s too early to know for sure.

“Even people who are in really desperate states sometimes pull out of it,” he said. “We don’t want to give up on people just because they are in a tough situation.”

The county’s naloxone program started in July 2015, a few months before Clallam County became the first in the state to require overdose reporting.

The county reported 62 overdoses in 2016, six of which were fatal.

The stats show a steady decline in the number of overdoses throughout the year, with 20 overdoses in the first quarter of 2016, 17 in the second quarter, 14 in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth quarter.

Between 2011 and 2015, Clallam County had the second worst opioid overdose death rate in the state at a rate of 14.6 per 100,000, according to the state Department of Health.

The state’s average was 9.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Jefferson County fell below the average at 8 deaths per 100,000 people.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Volunteers work to construct the main play structure of the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield in Port Angeles on Sunday, the last day of a five-day community build to replace play equipment destroyed by arson in December. The playground, built entirely with donated labor, will be substantially complete with primarily detail work and play surface installation still to come. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Finishing touches

Volunteers work to construct the main play structure of the Dream Playground… Continue reading

Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500- to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Sequim site could include 600 homes

Developer eyeing property near John Wayne Marina

Wait times at Olympic Medical Center emergency department improving, board told

Hospital aims to see patients within 30 minutes of arrival

Clallam to develop Salt Creek campsites for trail

Estimated development cost is $15,000 with annual maintenance at $1,500

Sarge’s Veteran Support house managers, from left, Danny Deckert, David Durnford and Steve Elmelund welcome attendees to the organization’s first fundraiser at the Dungeness River Nature Center on April 27. The event raised nearly $50,000. (Sarge’s Veteran Support)
Sarge’s Veterans Support gets nearly $49K in first fundraiser

More than 100 attend event at Dungeness River Nature Center

Sequim schools looking at options with budget struggles

District freezes most hiring, aims to cut at least $2.5 million

Gary Reidel, representing Wilder Toyota, plucks the winning duck from a truck. Wilder sponsored the winners prize of a 2024 Toyota Corolla. And the winner is Sarah Aten of Port Angeles. Her response was, “That’s amazing, that’s amazing.” There was 28,764 ducks sold this year as of race day. The all-time high was back in 2008 when over 36,000 were sold. (Dave Logan/For Peninsula Daily News)
Thirty-five winners announced in Great Olympic Peninsula Duck Pluck

Fundraising record set for Olympic Medical Center Foundation

Sewer project starting in west Port Angeles

Work crews from Scarsella Brothers, Inc., will resume construction… Continue reading

Port Angeles City Council to conduct special meeting

The Port Angeles city council will conduct a workshop… Continue reading

Weekly flight operations scheduled

There will be field carrier landing practice operations for aircraft… Continue reading

Port Angeles Fire Department community paramedic Brian Gerdes flips pancakes during Saturday’s annual breakfast on Saturday at the fire hall. The event, hosted by the fire department and auxiliary, was a fundraiser for department scholarships and relief baskets. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Pancake fundraiser in Port Angeles

Port Angeles Fire Department community paramedic Brian Gerdes flips pancakes during Saturday’s… Continue reading

Work begins on sewer project

Intermittent closures planned in Port Hadlock