Needle exchange program started for Orange County to combat HIV, STIs

Orange County has partnered with the nonprofit, Hope & Help, to launch the Needle Exchange Program.

The county says they're working to reduce overdoses which went up more than 70% during the pandemic.

Through the program, an addict will come in with an old needle and get a new one. They will also provide the life-saving drug Narcan, a medication that reverses overdoses and has saved thousands of lives. Hope & Health Prevention Director Adam Troy says while it may seem like enabling to those on the outside, in the long-term, it's working to prevent overdoses and treat people.

MORE NEWS: Teen cousins face murder charges in shooting of 17-year-old during drug deal at Bartow park

"I think the idea of facilitating or enabling comes to mind when someone thinks of a needle service," said Troy. "We want to meet people where they’re at. And offer them support without preconditions. So, we get them in the door, we’re talking to them, and provide them with the services they need."

Hope & Help was reportedly selected by the Orange County Government after the county's Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance to allow needle or syringe exchange programs in February 2020. The program launched on June 1 and is being paid for using private grants and donations, not taxpayer dollars.

The organization said that other program benefits include, "exchange of needles one for one; safe injection and wound care supplies; Naloxone distribution and education; overdose prevention and safer injection site training."

WEATHER ALERTS: Download the FOX 35 Storm Team Weather app for live radar, severe weather alerts, and daily forecast reports on your phone

"Syringe programs have been around since the 1980s, but yet they’re still somewhat controversial largely because of the stigma surrounding drug use," said Troy.

Orange County passed an ordinance in February of 2020 that allowed programs like these to run in the county. Hope and Health say this is the fourth program of this kind in the state.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says the program will help the county as a whole, whether it directly impacts your family or not.

"I think that’s something positive in our community because of the cost of a person who overdoses or uses they often cannot contribute to our society by going to work and doing all of those other things," said Demings.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.