Grand Forks Public Health will hold a public meeting on a proposed syringe service program from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 in the third floor lobby of the Grand Forks County Building, 151 S. Fourth St. in Grand Forks.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide information on the proposed program, as well as an opportunity for the public to give input.

Recently, the North Dakota Department of Public Health released data that saw a 78% increase in the rate of hepatitis C cases in Grand Forks County between 2017 and 2018. The data revealed that injection drug use was the primary cause of the transmission of the disease.

The objective of the proposed program is to reduce the spread of hepatitis C and HIV due to injection drug use, as well as to assist people who inject drugs into a recovery program. The Center for Disease Control recommends syringe service programs, sometimes called syringe exchange programs, as a way to reduce the transmission of the diseases.

“They would be collected in person, so an individual would bring in their used syringes into Public Health, and they would visit with one of the syringe service program employees,” said Michael Dulitz, opioid response project coordinator at Grand Forks Public Health. “We would ask them all sorts of questions and get an idea of what their current use patterns are, and then we would provide them with new syringes in exchange.”

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The program would be funded by federal opioid grants, and private funds would be used to purchase injection equipment. Federal and state funds are not allowed to be used to purchase injecting equipment.

The program also would distribute Naloxone, a drug that can treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation, as well as provide training on how to administer the drug, to individuals who need it.

Syringe exchange programs are legal in North Dakota and are operating in Fargo, Mandan and Minot. For more information, visit www.grandforksgov.com/government/city-departments/public-health.