Living In Good Health Together (LIGHT)
Health Right has recently started a Syringe Access Program, called LIGHT (Living In Good Health Together). This program is the first of its kind in West Virginia and follows the harm reduction model.
We are creating a non-judgmental environment for people with addictions to begin to see there is hope for change. We are helping reduce the transmission of disease in our community through harm reduction and hopefully, saving lives.
West Virginia has been experiencing a silent epidemic with serious implications for our great State. Opioids are often prescribed for pain and many people can become addicted to these pain killers in a relatively short time. As the addiction proceeds and tolerance builds up, people inject more and more and often eventually end up with a fatal overdose. WV unfortunately has the highest overdose death rate in the country. WV also currently ranks second for the highest percentage of hepatitis C cases. One of the main reasons for this dramatic increase in hepatitis C is increased opioid drug addiction within West Virginia.
After a year and a half of careful research, the unanimous support of the Milan Puskar Health Right Board of Director’s, and the development of a community advisory board, Health Right launched a harm reduction/syringe access program. In August of 2015, the LIGHT project became a reality. A registered nurse, social worker, medical assistant, nurse practitioner, and volunteers now provide medical attention, linkage and referral plus clean syringes, alcohol swabs and other supplies to people who are injecting substances.
Harm reduction is a set of various methods with the aim of reducing negative consequences from drug use, and syringe access programs are a harm reduction technique. The focus is on providing clean and sterile intravenous drug supplies, safety information and education, and referral to treatment. Ultimately, MPHR hopes that by opening an honest and non-judgmental dialogue with users that rapport can be established and clients can be assisted toward recovery.
The LIGHT Program expanded to Preston County in June 2017 and to Upshur County in April 2018.
Programs in Marion County are up and running at the Marion County Health Department.
To see if your community has a harm reduction syringe exchange, visit nasen.org/directory/wv/
Our ultimate goal with the LIGHT Program is to get people into drug treatment programs, and we are already seeing these benefits. Participants are requesting help getting into drug treatment, into counseling or getting tested for Hepatitis C and HIV during the program.
Principles of the LIGHT Program
- Do not to condemn or ignore that drug use is a part of our world.
- Drug use is complex, some ways of using drugs are safer than others.
- Drug users have a voice.
- Drug users are the primary source of reducing the harm of drug use.
- An individual’s background can determine the ability to effectively manage harm from drug use.
- Promote quality of individual and community life, not just cessation of drug use.
- Provide supplies and community resource referrals in a non-judgmental manner
- Create caring, supportive relationships.
- Syringe Access Kits
- Safe Syringe Disposal
- Naloxone Prescriptions
- HIV and Hepatitis C Testing
- Wound Care
- Addiction Treatment Referrals
- Opportunities for Primary Care
- Family Planning Materials
- Mental Health Counseling
- Peer Support
- Social Service Referrals
- A Safe Place to Discuss Drug Use and Convey Needs
Community Advisory Committee
- George Record, MD
- Laura Jones, MSW, Executive Director
- Officer Steve Bennett, Morgantown City Police
- Caitlin Sussman, MSW
- Emily Baldwin, RN
- Andie Rogers, WVU Positive Clinic (HIV treatment)
- Melanie Fisher, WVU Department of Medicine, Infectious Disease
- Jim Berry, WVU Department of Medicine, Psychiatry –Runs Suboxone Clinic
- Kavara Vaughn, WVU Department of Medicine –Psychiatry
- Sarah (participant in exchange)
- Jeannette Southerly, BSN, Mid-Atlantic AIDS Education and Training Center