Whether you call it a harm reduction program, or a clean needle exchange, it is not without controversy. But a local group is sharing their story, hoping to get more public support.

It's Friday night. Grace Boardman and her boyfriend are folding pamphlets and packing up supplies.

"We fill my trunk with Narcan, syringes, condoms," Boardman said.

After seeing the effects of drug use on their friends, they now volunteer their time. A couple of nights a week, they go to fixed sites, known only to volunteers and the people they help via word of mouth.

"We have literature for safe shooting practices, so we go over that with people or if they need to be trained to use Narcan," Boardman said. Narcan is the overdose-reversing drug.

The program is called Shot in the Dark. Despite other states having Syringe Service Programs, these volunteers rely solely on donations. They now have a GoFundMe page to help with costs.

"Lots of our volunteers are former drug users, some of them are current drug users," Boardman said.

"You just progress and then heroin came along so that's what I did," said Jacob Weiss. He said he started using drugs when he was 12 years old.

"I've literally seen somebody pick up a syringe off the ground they found and use it to shoot up before," Weiss said.

He said for him, Shot in the Dark is potentially life-saving.

"If you don't have access to them, you're not going to stop doing drugs, you're just going to deal with it and use dirty messed up gear," Weiss said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 HIV diagnoses are among drug users nationwide.

The Arizona Department of Health Services sent us a statement saying:The Arizona Department of Health Services does not play a role in needle exchange programs and does not receive funding for this activity.

In an email, a spokesperson for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said:As well intentioned as these programs may be, they do not help with ending addiction.

Boardman disagrees, and said if any of their participants want help, they've got those resources, too.

"I want them to be able to get out without lifelong reminders like HIV or hepatitis," she said.

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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