New York Times
10 Feb 2023
OSCEOLA, Iowa — So many of Deborah Krauss’s friends and neighbors have died of drug overdoses during the pandemic that she said she felt as if she had been living inside of a dream. The longest she has gone without someone dying, she noted, is three weeks. Her calendar grew cluttered with funerals.
“I lost count at 40,” she recalled on a recent evening in a Des Moines office as she organized supplies to help people consume drugs more safely. “And it just keeps happening.”
Ms. Krauss works for the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, one of the few harm reduction groups in the state. The coalition operates a syringe exchange program, which also routes drug users to medication-assisted treatment, where they receive drugs that can help manage cravings.
Researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, estimate that there are only around 1,100 full-time workers nationwide like Ms. Krauss, aided by a cast of around 600 part-time staff members and roughly 2,000 volunteers. A national survey conducted by RTI found that the median annual budget of a syringe exchange program was roughly $100,000, far less than what is needed to cover salaries, supplies and travel expenses.