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Safer; Reducing Harm and Needle Safety in Buncombe County

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Today in North Carolina, you are more likely to die of an overdose than a car crash. In light of this sobering statistic, we want everyone in Buncombe County to hear that safer choices are available. Safety is the point!

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is an evidence-based approach to reducing the harms, such as infectious disease and overdose, that can come with injection drug use. It focuses on quality of life vs. an abstinence only approach, which has a low success rate for opioid use. Harm reduction emphasizes the principles of non-judgment, non-coercion, safety, and empowerment in providing services to people who use drugs. These services are often the first place an individual feels empowered to take steps towards wellness, after months or years of disconnection from medical services.

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Syringe Services & Naloxone

Syringe services and exchange programs offer opportunities for healthier outcomes by providing sterile injection equipment; linkages to testing, care, and recovery options; and Naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug that can save the life of a person experiencing an opioid overdose.

502 community Naloxone reversals were reported in Buncombe County during 2017. Please reach out to our community organizations for Naloxone if you or a loved one—or anyone you know!—could be at risk of overdose.

Safety First: Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is spread when blood of an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. This can occur through sharing needles or "works" when injecting drugs, or through an occupational needle-stick exposure.

Using a new needle each time reduces the risk of infection from diseases such as Hepatitis C, HIV, and endocarditis—and increases entry into treatment 5-fold.

These supportive services lower rates of communicable diseases, decrease overdose deaths, and increase social connectedness by reducing stigma and providing a safe place to begin a conversation.


The Steady Collective

The Steady Collective offers a syringe exchange and Naloxone distribution. Contact steady@thesteadycollective.org for more information on Naloxone training and availability in Buncombe County.

Tuesday 1:30 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Firestorm Books and Coffee
610 Haywood Road
West Asheville
Wednesday 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Haywood Street Congregation
297 Haywood Street
Downtown Asheville

NEPA & WNCAP

Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) offers the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville (NEPA), offering a syringe exchange, and linkages to testing, care, and recovery options. Get in touch at wncap@wncap.org or call (828) 252-7489.

Monday, Thursday & Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
* Tuesday & Wednesday limited access

Western North Carolina AIDS Project
554 Fairview Road
East Asheville

Health Department

The Buncombe County Health Department offers STD testing & treatment and family planning services for all people. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccinations are available in addition to testing and treatment of these infections.

Monday, Wednesday—Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Tuesday 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

40 Coxe Avenue
Downtown Asheville
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Needle Safety & Disposal

Needlestick Prevention

SafeNeedleDisposal.org has some great information on needle safety. Safely disposing of home-generated used sharps is important. Sharps that are not disposed of safely may cause injury.

Quick Tips:

  • Do not pick up a needle from the ground unless absolutely necessary; such as a child nearby or job duties.
  • Do not stick your hands where you can't see; like under couch cushions, under mattresses, etc.
  • Do not attempt to recap a needle you did not use.
  • If you must pick up a syringe, use puncture resistant gloves and shoes, and tongs to grab the needle from the middle.
  • Dispose of the needle in thick plastic, such as a laundry detergent bottle, and tightly secure the top.
  • Bring the entire container to a local disposal location to dispose of the needle(s) properly. In Buncombe County you can bring needles to:

Needlestick Intervention

If accidentally stuck:

  1. Flush and wash the area with soap and water.
  2. Go to your doctor or the nearest emergency room immediately for Hepatitis B & C, and HIV testing.
  3. If you are not yet vaccinated, ask for Hepatitis B vaccination.
  4. Begin any preventive medications prescribed.
  5. Follow up per doctor's orders for further testing.

You can also call the Buncombe County Disease Control Program at (828) 250-5109 to schedule a testing appointment. The Buncombe Community C.A.R.E. Team has created a guide for needle safety and disposal in Buncombe County.

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Get Help Now

Treatment Information, News Articles, and Resources.

Treatment, Recovery, & Support

Treatment and recovery are possible and closer than you think. Our community has multiple partnering agencies that are well-equipped and experienced at providing resources that you or your loved one can access to take that critical first step towards better health and/ or recovery.

Science has proven that substance use disorder is a chronic brain disease that can be managed with medical treatment. We must reduce the negative public perception of addiction to remove barriers to getting help. Because right now, only 1 in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receive treatment.

  • Call MAHEC at (828) 257-4730 to explore your recovery options. Medication Assisted Treatment has a 50% chance of working, compared with detox alone which only has 10% success.
  • Call VAYA Health at 1-800-849-6127 for referrals for substance use counseling.
  • Dial 211 for connections to support resources in Buncombe County and across Western North Carolina. If you are a first responder or medical provider, this card could come in handy during experiences with someone who has overdosed
  • Visit the Peer Living Rooms at C3@356 to connect with people with lived experience in substance use disorder: (828) 254-2700 or go to 356 Biltmore Ave in Asheville.
  • Research shows that peer support works! For more information about local peer support, contact Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness at (828) 552-3858.
  • Safer is better! The State of North Carolina has created this helpful health resource guide for our region. If you are in Buncombe County, be sure to look up Region 2 resources!
  • More information is available from the NC Opiod Prevention and Awareness initiative