Approaching its first year in the community this month, the Malheur County Health Department’s Walk-Thru Wednesday program is going strong. An essential service that was launched just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, Walk-Thru Wednesday is a PRIME Peer program aimed at providing peer-based harm reduction support for people who use drugs.
“The purpose of Walk-Thru Wednesday is to meet people where they’re at,” MCHD Certified Recovery Mentor Hannah Roy said. Every Wednesday from 12-3 p.m., that place is Mallard Grocery in Ontario where Roy and other peers offer safer-use supplies and syringes, hygiene and wound care kits, safe sex supplies, educational materials, information about hepatitis and HIV testing and links to treatment when needed, and referral to other support programs, including Oregon Health Plan application assistance, WIC, family planning, home visiting, and more.
Walk-Thru Wednesday also offers Naloxone, a life-saving medication used to reverse opioid overdose. “We want Naloxone in the hands of people who use or who know someone who does. It’s free and we’ll teach people how to use it,” Roy said.
Roy is one of three MCHD employees who are trained and certified through the state’s PRIME Peer program to help prevent overdose and injection-related infections and to provide resources and support. The health department also employs two peer support specialists whose primary role is to provide harm-reduction counseling and practical support. In addition to training, peers have lived experience. “We’ve gone through recovery in this area and we know how hard it is. We recognize the barriers,” Roy said.
PRIME is an acronym that stands for Peer Recovery Initiated in Medical Establishments. The program is geared toward people who are currently using drugs and are present in medical settings. The Peer part of the program name represents the peer support that takes place through SMART Recovery meetings and in 1-to-1 settings. SMART is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training.
SMART Recovery meetings are open to the public and free to attend. There is no need to register; anyone can simply drop in. To find a local meeting, search online for “SMART Recovery meetings near me,” or visit SMART Recovery® Local Meetings (smartrecoverytest.org) There are two meetings available in Ontario each week:
- Thursdays, 3-4 p.m. in person at the MCHD office, located at 1108 S.W. 4th St.
- Saturdays, 12-1 p.m. via Zoom.
People can also receive support by calling the Health Department at 541-889-7279 or directly to the Peer Dispatch Line at 541-709-8539 during regular business hours. If there is no answer, leave a message. You will receive a response within 24 hours. For after-hours public health reporting, please call Malheur County Dispatch at 541-473-5125. For emergencies, call 911.