Year of Publication


Competition Category

Social Sciences


Social Work


Research has documented the myriad benefits to public and individual health provided by syringe exchange programs (SEPs), which allow persons who inject drugs access to sterile injection equipment. In 2015, Kentucky passed legislation that permitted public health departments to operate SEPs, but much remains unknown about knowledge and perceptions of the newly-implemented programs, particularly among individuals with histories of substance use. The present study therefore aimed to: 1) describe awareness of SEPs in Kentucky among participants of corrections-based substance abuse treatment programs, surveyed one year after their release into the community; 2) to determine if awareness of SEPs varies based on whether individuals live in counties with operational SEPs; 3) to describe perceptions of SEPs in Kentucky; and 4) to explore barriers and motivations for PWID to use SEPs. Results indicated that the majority of respondents had heard of SEPs in their area, and that individuals living in counties with operational SEPs were significantly more likely to correctly identify that an SEP existed. Analysis of qualitative data demonstrated that respondents were aware of SEPs’ provision of sterile equipment and their role in preventing injury and disease transmission. However, many respondents believed that concerns about confidentiality, specifically related to police or community surveillance, may act as barriers to SEP utilization. These findings suggest that additional outreach, particularly targeting fears of legal repercussions, could increase utilization and positive perceptions of SEPs in Kentucky.


Martha Tillson won the second place in the Social Sciences category.

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Social Work Commons