Like many states in the nation, Maine is facing a widespread and deadly heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. In 2013 a drug overdose claimed a life every other day, and by the end of the year the death toll was 176. The epidemic escalated quickly and between 2010 and 2013, treatment admissions for heroin doubled while the percentage of heroin overdoses increased by 400%. Nearly 1/3 of all those who sought help for heroin addiction were young women and mothers aged 18 to 25. During the same 12 month period, 22% of those who sought treatment for pharmaceutical opioid addiction took their drugs intravenously, while the same opioids they were using ( oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone) contributed to 80% of the overdose deaths.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of blood borne Hepatitis C and HIV has dramatically increased as a result of the heroin and opioid epidemic. According to the National Center for Disease Control, CDC, 90% of the deadly Hepatitis C infections are transmitted when people who inject drugs (PWIDs) share blood-contaminated needles. Tragically, an estimated, 85% of the people who inject drugs in southern Maine have Hepatitis C. And while the number of HIV infections in Maine is relatively low, the risk is still very real; as an estimated 20% of all HIV infections are transmitted when IV drug users share their needles. The lifetime cost of one HIV-infection is an estimated $680,000 while a Hep C infection cost between $60,000 and $210,000. Despite advances in medicine more than 22,000 people die of HIV and Hep C each year.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most successful and cost-effective way to address this double epidemic is to provide a full range of services for people who inject drugs (PWIDs), including 1) HIV/Hepatitis C education, testing and treatment , 2) substance abuse counseling and treatment referrals, 3) safe sex and safe drug use education, and 4) exchanging contaminated syringes for sterile ones (syringe exchange programs or SEP's). In cities where comprehensive sets of services are provided, the rate of new HIV and HEP C infections in PWIDs have declined by nearly 20% while they have increased by 8% in cities they have been eliminated. At the same time, nearly 20% of those receiving medical services and clean syringes enroll in substance abuse treatment programs while the number of new drug users remains unchanged.
In rural areas like Maine where poverty and a lack of public transportation create obstacles to seeking substance abuse treatment and support, these Hep C/HIV Prevention services can be delivered very cost-effectively in specially designed and outfitted vans. Our research indicates that the cost to purchase a used van is $20,000 while we estimate the cost to staff, supply and operate a van will be $50,000 per year. By preventing just one HIV or HepC infection, the van pays for itself.
Choopers Foundation is seeking your support in the amount of $25,000 to help us purchase a mobile Addiction Resource and Harm Reduction van. Choopers Foundation, in partnership with the Frannie Peabody Center, an established and well-respected organization devoted to HIV/AIDs prevention and support, will operate it 7 days per week within X communities from York to Lewiston identified as in need of IV drug abuse and disease prevention services. It will be operate on a regular/consistent schedule and using Best Management Practices developed by other mobile units throughout the nation, the van will provide testing and educational services while exchanging needles 1:1 according to State law. It will staff the van and collect data in accordance with AMA, CDC, and HIPA regulations and provide its data to partnering organizations and/or agencies.