Institute Senior Associate Sonia Canzater and Infectious Diseases Initiative Program Director Jeffrey S. Crowley have authored the Hepatitis Policy Project’s latest “Big Ideas” issue brief that explains how expanding the number of syringe service programs (SSPs) is essential to improve the health of people with substance use disorder and stop the spread of hepatitis C (HCV) among persons who use drugs (PWID).

Injection drug use, primarily of opioid-derived drugs and methamphetamine, is a primary factor in the exponentially higher rates of HCV seen int he U.S. over the past 10 years. The sharing of needles, syringes, and other tools used to inject drugs greatly increases the risk of transmitting and acquiring bloodborne infections such as HCV and HIV.

SSPs provide an accessible and non-judgmental venue for PWID to not only receive sterile injection equipment, but to receive comprehensive medical and social services they need to improve their health and overall well-being, such as housing assistance and substance use disorder treatment.

Despite evidence showing the efficacy of these programs in reducing the spread of infections and helping people get treatment for substance use disorder, many communities hit hardest by the opioid crisis still resist implementing SSPs, often citing unsupported beliefs that such programs will increase crime and promote even greater illicit drug use.

This brief provides insights on the facts on the benefits of SSPs, as well as examples of innovative and successful strategies from jurisdictions across the U.S.

A downloadable copy of the brief can be found here.