By: Raynald Joseph - Co-Chair Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research-Community Engaged Research Council (C-CERC), Prevention Supervisor for AIDS Care Ocean State (ACOS)
As Rhode Island’s only needle exchange program, ENCORE (Education, Needle Exchange, Counseling, Outreach, and Referrals) serves a wide range of clients infected or at risk for infection with HIV and or Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Through its on-site and outreach platforms across Rhode Island, ENCORE is in a unique position to serve at-risk individuals who may not otherwise present for prevention, testing and care for HIV and or HCV.
ENCORE has always had a mission to be innovative with its services and applauds its ability to be able to adapt with the times. Throughout the years some examples of innovations include, moving to a needs-based distribution process. With this, clients do not need to exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, rather they can obtain as many syringes as they and their injecting partners will need. Throughout the years ENCORE has made many innovations to its services; in 2002 ENCORE expanded its mobile sites to Woonsocket and Newport, in 2008 ENCORE started its backpack needle exchange program, in 2012 ENCORE developed its home delivery service, all in an effort to better cover the entire state of Rhode Island.
ENCORE’s newest model of innovation comes in the form of Harm Reduction Vending Machines. Harm Reduction Vending Machines are common in other countries and have been proven effective with little to no adverse consequences. These Harm Reduction Vending Machines will contain Narcan/Naloxone, Fentanyl Test Strip Kits, Safer Sex Kits (condoms and lubrication), and Harm Reduction Kits (syringes, alcohol prep pads, cotton, clean water, band-aids, antibiotic ointment, tourniquets, cooker/caps, and sharps disposal box). Clients that are enrolled in the ENCORE Program will have access to the contents of the machine. If a person is not enrolled in the program but would like to access the machine, there is a phone intake process and within five minutes they can then access the supplies they need. The machines will operate off of a unique code which all ENCORE clients already have and know and can be punched into the pin pad of the machine. Next to each machine will be a sharps disposal kiosk where clients as well as the public can dispose of used syringes.
The ENCORE program will have six Harm Reduction Vending Machines across the state, placed in areas that are at most risk of having either HIV, HCV, or Overdose outbreaks. The hopes are that these machines will give clients access to evidence-based life saving tools and supplies. With at least two of the machines having 24- hour access, and being wide spread across the state, we hope to cast a wider net for clients.
Harm Reduction Vending Machines seem to be hopeful innovation for the expansion of the ENCORE Program and Harm Reduction Services as a whole for the state of Rhode Island. Although this is a pilot program, ENCORE is confident that these machines will make a major impact in our fight against HIV, HCV and the Overdose Epidemic. ENCORE looks forward to evaluating the long-term impact of the Harm Reduction Vending Machines and the communities we serve.