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Bundling occupational safety with harm reduction information as a feasible method for improving police receptiveness to syringe access programs: evidence from three U.S. cities

Creators: Davis, Corey S, Beletsky, Leo

File Type: pdf | Filesize: 258.8 KB | Date Added: 2012-08-23 | Date Created: 2009-07-14

Abstract Introduction In light of overwhelming evidence that access to sterile injection equipment reduces incidence of injection-attributable bloodborne disease without encouraging drug use, many localities have authorized sterile syringe access programs (SAPs), including syringe exchange and pharmacy-based initiatives. Even where such interventions are clearly legal, many law enforcement officers are unaware of the public health benefits and legal status of these programs and may continue to treat the possession of injection equipment as illegal and program participation as a marker of illegal behavior. Law enforcement practice can impede SAP utilization and may increase the risk of needlestick injury (NSI) among law enforcement personnel. Many SAPs conduct little or no outreach to law enforcement, in part because they perceive law enforcement actors as unreceptive to health-promotion programs targeting drug users. Case description We report on a brief training intervention for law enforcement personnel designed to increase officer knowledge of and positive attitudes towards SAPs by bundling content that addresses officer concerns about infectious disease and occupational safety with information about the legality and public health benefits of these programs. Pilot trainings using this bundled curriculum were conducted with approximately 600 officers in three US cities. Discussion and evaluation Law enforcement officers were generally receptive to receiving information about SAPs through the bundled curriculum. The trainings led to better communication and collaboration between SAP and law enforcement personnel, providing a valuable platform for better harmonization of law enforcement and public health activities targeting injection drug users. Conclusion The experience in these three cities suggests that a harm reduction training curriculum that bundles strategies for increasing officer occupational safety with information about the legality and public health benefits of SAPs can be well received by law enforcement personnel and can lead to better communication and collaboration between law enforcement and harm reduction actors. Further study is indicated to assess whether such a bundled curriculum is effective in changing officer attitudes and beliefs and reducing health risks to officers and injection drug users, as well as broader benefits to the community at large.