A non-profit organization in Grand Rapids is in the business of preventing disease by handing out syringes to drug addicts.
The program is called "Clean Works." It's a part of the Red Project Grand Rapids, and was founded back in 2000 when former Mayor John Logie and the city commission approved needle exchange programs in Grand Rapids.
Clean Works is run strictly by volunteers and donations from community partners like Steelcase Foundation and Mars Hill Church. The federal government stopped funding needle exchange programs several years ago.
Volunteers in Grand Rapids take in more than 60,000 needles a year from hundreds of addicts who walk through the doors looking for clean needles in exchange.
"We provide services primarily to people who inject drugs, we're a harm reduction program that practices syringe exchange," said Clean Works Program Director, Steve Alsum.
Alsum was an addict, and client of a needle exchange program in New York City several years ago.
According to the program website, In Kent County alone, about 26% of people living with HIV/AIDS were infected by sharing dirty needles. It has also been estimated that 30 – 70% of all people who use intravenous drugs have been infected with hepatitis C, and in fact, one new person tests positive for the hepatitis C virus almost every day in Kent County.
The approach is non-judgmental, and the group also provides safe sex items, HIV, and Hepatitis C testing, and overdose training to drug users. When a client decides they are ready to get clean, the organization provides resources to rehab facilities in the area.
Clean Works is located within Heartside Ministries at 54 S. Division in Grand Rapids, and is open Monday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.