ACR Health director says deadly overdose rates remind him of AIDS crisis

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - On the heels of World AIDS Day, workers at a local outreach group are comparing the challenges they once faced with HIV infections to the current opioid epidemic in central New York.

AIDS Community Resources was formed in the early 80's to help communities in New York State deal with the AIDS crisis. 

As infection rates dropped over the years due to education and prevention efforts, the group expanded services to address other emerging issues. 

Wil Murtaugh, the executive director of what is now known as ACR Health, says one of their biggest challenges today is trying to prevent deadly drug overdoses.

"It sends me back 25-years ago when I came here as a volunteer. I'd be working with people and volunteering with people and they might be dead the next week because they had AIDS," Murtaugh remembers. "Now the same thing is happening with clients who we are serving through our syringe exchange or our medical clinic for people who are addicted. They could be using and they might be gone the next week because they overdosed. It is that scary."

Drug users also face a higher risk of HIV infection or exposure to any other disease that can be spread by sharing needles. 

ACR Health does allow clients to privately pick up clean needles, or drop off used ones, at their office on West genesee Street in Syracuse. 

There is also a prescription pill available to help prevent the spread of HIV.

Murtaugh says his workers can help clients learn about potential side effects for Truvada or find insurance plans that offer access to a PrEP program.

ACR Health recently opened a medical clinic to offer people struggling with drug abuse some access to basic care for minor health issues.

Anyone who'd like to learn more can contact the Syracuse office at (315) 475-2430.


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