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The City of Jackson is supporting a new effort that intends to battle the opioid epidemic and stop the spread of infectious disease in the city. At its Tuesday, May 28 meeting, the Jackson City Council passed the final adoption of an ordinance that allows for a harm reduction program in Jackson.
The ordinance is part of a collaboration between the City of Jackson and a newly formed organization called JXN Harm Reduction. The organization will provide the safe disposal of used injection materials, syringe services, testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and STDs, along with providing naloxone distribution, overdose prevention education, skin and soft tissue infection prevention, and referral for mental health services, social services, medical care, and treatment of substance use disorder.
In passing the ordinance, the City agrees not to prosecute any of the board members, staff, volunteers, and interns for possession of drug paraphernalia as they are handing out needles and other supplies to the participants of the JXN Harm Reduction program. This exemption is allowed under State of Michigan law.
The Jackson community has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and other drug use in recent years. The 2017 Jackson County Drug-Related Data Report documents 25 and 14 deaths in 2016 and 2017, respectively, involving heroin and opioids. Research has shown communities that offer harm reduction programs have seen declines in the incidence of injection-related infections among users, as well as increased employment and use of treatment, without increasing new use of injection drugs.
An ordinance to support harm reduction was proposed to the City Council by Mayor Derek Dobies and Fifth Ward Councilmember Kelsey Heck. With no other service like this available in Jackson County, Councilmember Heck says the program will break down barriers to getting people help, along with making sure used needles are off the streets. “The opioid epidemic has been so far reaching in Jackson. Any tool that we have at our disposal is one that we should be using,” Heck said.
Mayor Dobies wants residents to know that no City funds are supporting the program. The mayor says Tuesday’s action from the council shows that they want to explore different options in fighting this issue. “It’s really about building relationships between users and volunteers in this organization to make sure they’re getting the help they need and staying healthy,” Dobies said.
JXN Harm Reduction is still in its initial planning stages and does not currently have a designated location for needle services and counseling. The ordinance goes into effect Friday, June 28.