Medical Clinic to Serve Injection Drug Users
ACR Health has opened a medical clinic to provide health care for injection drug users, including the 1,800 individuals currently enrolled in ACR Health’s Syringe Exchange Program (SEP). The Safety First Medical Clinic was established through a five-year $150,000 per year grant from New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute.
Clients do not have to be enrolled in ACR Health’s SEP to participate, but must be classified as an injection drug user. Examples, in addition to illegal substances, are people who inject steroids or insulin, or transgender individuals who inject hormones. Clinic patients are screened by Nurse Practitioners for Hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and will receive preventative care. Dr. Laura Martin, DO, of MyCare Family Practice, oversees the ACR Health clinic.
“This clinic is a next logical step in New York’s quest to end AIDS by 2020,” said Michael Crinnin, Executive Director of ACR Health. “If we can’t get people into healthcare, there’s no hope to end AIDS.”
Health officials say injection drug users often suffer from untreated abscesses on their skin where they inject heroin, they go without treatment because they are reluctant to engage with the healthcare system. “It takes time and trust to develop a relationship with an active substance user,” said Erin Bortel, Director of Prevention. “They feel safe with us and will more likely use the clinic, which is a stepping stone to permanent healthcare.”
Among the first patients was 32-year-old Jeremy Fiorino, who had used SEP for several years, but has now, with the help of Prevention Health Advocate Peter Emery, successfully completed drug treatment, and has re-engaged with healthcare. “I had some chronic issues stemming from my drug use. Because I trust ACR Health, I felt safe using the clinic. They connected me with a primary care physician to treat my health issues long term.”
In addition to the state grant, Nobel Health Services, Inc. provided a $20,000 grant for general support. Michael Becker, Director of Specialty Pharmacy, says his company invested in the Safety First Clinic because they believe in the work we do. “Noble Health Services is honored to support the mission of ACR Health by providing financial support for the Safety First Health Clinic. As a full-service, nationally-accredited Specialty Pharmacy in Syracuse, Noble Health Services shares ACR’s commitment to the health and wellness of HIV+ and HCV infected individuals in Upstate New York. Our organizations share a common goal of removing barriers to healthcare in the communities that we serve.”
The Safety First Medical Clinic will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. two mornings a week in the beginning, and then move toward a five day schedule. Injection Drug Users will always be prioritized for service, based on our funding guidelines.
March 31, 2016