KALISPELL — A successful needle take back program aims to keep the Flathead community safer and healthier.
Flathead County HIV Prevention Specialist Shawna Himsl started the program this past spring after receiving a federal grant.
Himsl tells MTN the anonymous program is designed to keep the Flathead community safe from contaminated needles.
Since March, the clinic has seen 107 participants.
She says the most common drugs used in the Flathead are methadone, methamphetamine, prescription pain medications and heroin.
Those using needles visit with Himsl anonymously, drop off their used needles and receive new ones to prevent the spread of disease.
While there, they also have access to counseling and other programs to help them succeed and find support.
Himsl says while the program has been controversial, she emphasizes the importance to stop the spread of the disease with clean needles.
“We were doing some STD testing over at the jail and we were finding that there were a lot of folks that not only had hepatitis C but reported sharing needles and other equipment used for drug injection. So, we thought we'd address that through this program,” explained Himsl.
The program has taken in over 4,000 used needles and has given out more than 5,000 clean needles in the Flathead Valley.