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Memphis Nonprofit Starting Program to Allow Drug Users to Exchange Dirty Needles for Clean Ones

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A nonprofit in Memphis is starting a syringe service program in the next few weeks.

The program will allow drug users to turn in used needles in exchange for clean ones.

Data from the Shelby County Health Department shows that from the beginning of 2019 to May 25, 96 people died from overdoses.

Ron Bobal decided to form a nonprofit after his son died from an overdose on Christmas three years ago.

The nonprofit is called “Beteor Way” and focuses on raising awareness about the opioid crisis.

The name comes from his 29-year-old son Ronnie who used “Beteor” as his graffiti artist name.

“As a parent when you suffer loss, you have all these emotions. You have this negative energy and we wanted to focus that energy to help other people,” said Bobal.

Bobal said the syringe service program will allow addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones.

The state-certified program will also offer Narcan which treats overdoses.

“We are helping out tremendously if we put fresh clean needles on the street by lowering the causes of shared needles through IV drug usage. So, you reduce the HIV, Hepatitis C and some other bloodborne disease transmitted by the sharing of needles,” said Bobal.

Bobal said he will exchange needles for the program at different locations in the city.

This is what he said to people who might oppose the program.

“There is only one rule out here, that is dead addicts don’t recover. I can’t stress that enough this all about harm reduction, giving addicts a glimmer of hope and help to keep them alive on the street,” said Bobal.

Thurston Smith with the opioid task force said he believes the syringe service program will help addicts.

“When you have needle exchange programs, that minimizes and somewhat mitigates the likelihood of drug addicts sharing needles,” said Smith.

Bobal said in the future he plans on buying a trailer to travel to different locations to exchange needles.

He also wants to include HIV or Hepatitis C tests for addicts in the future.

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