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Roanoke moves forward with harm reduction program to help combat opioid crisis

Program to include needle exchange

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke is taking another step toward putting a blueprint in place to help combat the opioid crisis.

Monday, City Council approved a resolution supporting the Comprehensive Harm Reduction Program.

The broad program is designed to help combat addiction in a number of ways that includes a needle exchange program.

The mobile unit will provide needle disposal and distribution, harm reduction education, testing and referral to mental health, substance use treatment, medical care and social services.

Research shows programs like this have been successful in reducing improperly disposed of syringes that could carry disease.

City Council unanimously approved the resolution to move forward with the program, but there are some lingering concerns about how many people it can really help.

"It’s like trying to get everybody in the class. If everybody understands the need for education and they want to further education but there's not enough room in the class for them to come. That's a problem, so I just hope we can keep that in mind as well," Council member Bill Bestpitch said.

Roanoke would be the fourth locality in Virginia with a program like this, behind Richmond, Smyth and Wise Counties.

The program now only needs approval from the Virginia Department of Health to move forward.

Program organizers hope to launch it in late summer or early fall.