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RTI to strengthen syringe service programs with CDC award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, has been selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an initiative that seeks to increase access to harm reduction services and reduce complications, such as infections, related to injection drug use.

Syringe services programs (SSPs) are the mainstay of community-based efforts to provide services to people who use drugs (PWUD). At their core, SSPs provide access to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment for people who inject drugs (PWID). Often, they provide a broad array of other evidence-based interventions, including naloxone; screening, prevention, and treatment for infectious diseases; and access to medications for opioid use disorder. Increasing and improving access to SSPs has immense potential for mitigating health disparities that PWUD experience.

RTI will conduct a national survey of SSPs each year to understand access, capacity, and coverage of services and strengthen communication strategies that center the voices of people with lived experience related to drug use.

RTI’s approach will yield high-quality information regarding current experiences and emerging issues that SSPs face throughout the country. Additionally, the project team will strengthen dissemination channels so new information can be shared efficiently not only with partners but also throughout the existing SSP networks.

“We are thrilled to work with CDC on this incredibly important piece of work. Syringe services programs have been the backbone of community-based responses to mitigate harms related to drug use,” says Dr. Barrot H. Lambdin, the principal investigator of the project. “Understanding and disseminating the experiences of SSPs can inform how local, state and federal agencies could allocate resources to strengthen these organizations.”

RTI researchers will partner with the North American Syringe Exchange Network; the National Harm Reduction Coalition; and leading researchers from the University of Southern California, University of Washington, University of Miami and New York University.

Together, these efforts will strengthen SSPs, leading to increased access to harm reduction services and helping our nation strengthen its response to the overdose mortality crisis.

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