The first syringe service program in Florida, which is staffed predominantly by medical students from the University of Miami
The Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) Exchange began as a pilot in 2016, operating within the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. In 2017, the pilot program began mobile outreach. In 2014, Florida had one of the highest rates of HIV in the United States largely driven by injection drug use. In response, a group of healthcare professionals advocated for legislation that would create the IDEA Exchange. In part to the success and policy advocacy of the IDEA Exchange, Florida now has legalized syringe service programs statewide.
Services provided by the IDEA Exchange include:
- One-to-one needle exchange
- Naloxone distribution
- Harm reduction and safe injection kits
- HIV and Hepatitis C screening and linkage to treatment
- Wound care
- Referrals to addiction treatment (including medications for opioid use disorder), healthcare, and housing
An important and innovative attribute of the IDEA exchange is a free clinic predominantly run by medical students. In addition to providing low threshold services for people who inject drugs (PWID), the clinic addresses the need to produce a new generation of healthcare professionals who can treat PWID with compassion and without judgment. Operating within an academic healthcare system has also given ample opportunity to engage in research (see peer-reviewed papers below).
More information on the program can be found in the presentation here.
The syringe service program was forced to temporarily halt services during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the medical students that run the program created a telehealth program to deliver medications for opioid use disorder during COVID-19 as a way to serve their clients.