Our Nurse of the Week is Angie Gray, a nurse from West Virginia who is working to fight the opioid epidemic through her harm reduction clinic. Gray started the first harm reduction program in her county in April 2017, with a syringe and needle exchange, inspired by witnessing the devastation of the opioid epidemic in her own community.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, there are at least 11 harm reduction programs across the state offering help to people with substance use disorders. These programs provide successful tools to help more people seek out long-term recovery.
Programs like the one that Gray runs work by providing syringe and needle exchange programs to help prevent disease and death for people suffering from substance use disorders. Gray also provides education about recovery and keeps patients’ names and information anonymous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that harm reduction programs considerably reduce the spread of disease and do not increase illegal use of drugs, despite concerns about these types of programs.
Gray tells WVPublic.org, “If someone’s attending a harm reduction program, they’re five times more likely to seek recovery, because they’ve already made that initial connection. A lot of it is about the relationship building as well, building trust with people; helping them get to a better place in life.”
Gray’s program allowed her to serve more than 1,000 patients in the first year. As Gray’s harm reduction program continues to grow, she hopes to take the program on the road so that she can help meet the needs of people in rural areas too. To learn more about Angie Gray and how she is fighting the opioid epidemic through her harm reduction program, visit here.