Monday numbers: Safe syringe programs have led to a 44% increase in overdose reversals since 2019

Monday numbers: Safe syringe programs have led to a 44% increase in overdose reversals since 2019

- in News, Top Story

The reach of safe syringe programs in North Carolina has expanded dramatically since the legislature passed a 2016 law allowing health officials to provide sterile syringes, new needles, and naloxone kits to reverse opioid overdoses.  

The programs are meant to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, and refer people to substance abuse treatment. In the 2020-21 reporting year, 56% of syringe programs said they offered HIV tests and 61% said they offered Hepatitis C tests.  

North Carolina is one of 42 states with syringe exchange programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

Overdose deaths from all drugs increased in North Carolina in 2020, to 28.4 deaths for every 100,000 residents from 22.4 deaths for every 100,000 people the year before, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.  

Overdose deaths spiked in nearly every state in 2020, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Public health officials and drug treatment counselors attribute the increase to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased appearance of fentanyl mixed with other drugs.  

DHHS does not operate clean syringe programs, but organizations that run them must report to the state agency.   

Annual reports document their growth.  

2020-21

42 – number of syringe services programs

56 (+ the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation) – number of counties served

26,596 – number of people served 

More than 8 million – number if sterile syringes distributed 

1,973 – number of people referred to substance abuse treatment 

More than 89,500 – number of naloxone kits distributed 

12,392 – number of overdose reversals reported 


2019-2020
 

38 – number of programs

55 (+ the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation) – number of counties served

15,339 – number of people served 

5.3 million – number of sterile syringes distributed  

2,789 – number of referrals to substance abuse treatment 

53,097 – number of naloxone kits distributed 

More than 8,600 – number of overdose reversals reported 


2018-19
 

32 (+ the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation) – number of counties served

9,883 – number of people served 

3.3 million – number of syringes distributed 

35,205 – number of naloxone kits distributed 

More than 4,800 – number of overdose reversals reported (the actual number is likely higher because not all reversals are documented) 


2017-18
 

29 – number of programs submitted reports to DHHS

34 – number of counties served 

5,352 – number of people served 

Nearly 1.6 million – number of syringes distributed 

19,217 – number of naloxone kits distributed 

2,660 – number of overdose reversals reported 

1,014 – number of referrals to substance abuse disorder and mental health programs (only year with a reference to mental health referrals)