Pandemic led to innovative approaches to service delivery at many programs, despite reduced staffing and loss of funding opportunities
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new paper by researchers at RTI International and the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine details how syringe service programs (SSPs) leaned on ingenuity and resiliency in the face of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the research team found through 36 in-depth interviews with program representatives from 18 programs that SSPs innovated their service delivery despite having to reduce the number of staff on site for safety reasons and losing out on current and future funding opportunities.
“Syringe service programs had to deal with a number of challenges brought on by COVID-19,” said Barrot H. Lambdin, a senior implementation scientist at RTI and senior author of the paper. “Our interviews with program representatives made it clear that, as a whole, these programs adapted their services exceptionally well given the circumstances.”
The interviews uncovered innovations in service delivery at SSPs that included secondary and mail-based naloxone distribution, adoption of telemedicine for enrolling participants in medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and use of virtual training platforms for overdose prevention.
Program representatives reported high levels of staff and volunteer commitment, which was a cornerstone to the success of the innovations.
“These programs innovated at an accelerated pace with minimal staffing and diminished funding,” added Lambdin. “To make these new approaches sustainable, it’s critical that federal, state and local governments create a supportive environment, both in terms of policy and funding.”
To read the full paper, published by Elsevier, click here.