Over the past two decades, deaths from drug overdoses have steadily climbed as the United States continues to face an opioid epidemic.
Each day more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Accidental drug overdose is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the country. With nearly 80% of all accidental poisonings being drug-related, accidental poisoning deaths have surpassed the number of fatalities caused by motor vehicle injury, since 2005.
Boulder County is no exception to these growing trends. In 2016, the fatal heroin overdose rate in Boulder County increased to 4.7 per 100,000 individuals, and emergency room visits involving heroin increased. The number of fatalities caused by opioids, in Boulder County, has quadrupled since 1999.
In 1989, Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) launched The Works Program, which became the nation’s third syringe exchange program. The program was developed as a local agreement between public health, the district attorney, and law enforcement. Since its inception, The Works Program has successfully prevented the spread of disease.
Today, the Works Program is a free, legal syringe exchange program in Boulder County, serving people who inject drugs. The program provides harm reduction supplies, including new syringes, to prevent the spread of blood pathogens like HIV and hepatitis C. The Works Program staff provides HIV and hepatitis C testing, vaccinations, overdose reversal training, wound care education, Narcan distribution, and referrals to addiction recovery services.
In 2010, the General Assembly of Colorado passed legislature that gave a county or district board of health the power to approve syringe access programs in the state of Colorado. Since then, BCPH’s Works Program has had a sixfold increase of program participants. Between 2010 and 2016, there was an 800% increase in the number of people accessing safe injection supplies. Last year, more than 1700 people were served through the program.
In Boulder County, the Works Program Services are available at Boulder County Public Health in Boulder and Longmont, Mental Health Partners in Boulder, and Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP) in Boulder. At BCAP, Works Program staff provides outreach, education, and syringe exchange services to help reduce HIV and viral hepatitis transmission among people who inject and their partners. Services are provided in a confidential, non-judgmental, and informative environment, and currently are available Monday through Friday from 2pm to 5pm. To learn more about BCAP’s Syringe Access Program, visit https://bcap.org/outreach-testing-programs/works-program-syringe-access-services/ or call (303)444-6121.