What I learned on my trip to Coney Island

Last month, I rode out to Coney Island, in Brooklyn, with Isaac & Pedro, two staff in our Integrated Harm Reduction Program to see their work in action. Nestled right next to the iconic rides on Coney Island’s historic boardwalk is a neighborhood where injection drug use is common. Despite the wind and rain, we park our van and the team sets up shop.

Over the course of the day, the team meets with clients who come for new, clean, sterile needles. We give them out for free because using clean needles lowers the risk of HIV and other blood-born infection transmissions. I learn that in cities with needle exchange programs, HIV infection rates among drug users have dropped 75% and for each one of those prevented infections, we’re saving at least $180,000.

Many of these clients won’t go to doctors but they’ll come to us for clean needles and with each encounter we get the opportunity to help them more—offer more educational materials, provide basic first aid, listen to their problems. In the past year, we spent more than 2,000 hours in the field with clients and as they begin to trust our counselors, many let us connect them to doctors and therapists.

But no matter what their goals or whether they ever want to stop using or not, they know that we are there for them, helping them live as safely and with the greatest health that they can.

Harlem United helped over 700 clients in seven neighborhoods around the city through our Integrated Harm Reduction Program this year and we’d like to reach even more next year. Will you help us make that possible by contributing a special gift today? $15 covers the cost of tolls to get our mobile unit to Coney Island, while $55 is the cost of one overdose prevention kit and $100 can provide Metrocards and a snackpack for a support group of 15 clients.

Whatever the amount you give, your gift will help transform the lives of countless New Yorkers


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