NASEN is a national network of syringe exchange programs (SEPs), those who support them, and the people they serve. NASEN has a three-fold mission; support SEPs through technical and financial assistance programs, expand and support the network of individuals and organizations interested in syringe exchange as an effective public health intervention, and disseminate information related to syringe exchange and disease prevention. NASEN’s purpose is to ensure that drug users have access to the quality disease prevention and health care services that other citizens of our society enjoy. Our goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate epidemic levels of the transmission of HIV, HCV and other blood borne diseases among drug users, their partners, family, friends and others in their community. We seek the equitable inclusion of drug users and sex workers in the healthcare system and fair treatment of these individuals by society at large. We support unrestricted access to the tools and information these populations need to make healthy choices. NASEN is a non-profit organization. All services are provided to SEPs free of charge.
NASEN was formed in 1988 out of a loose network of young SEPs and other organizations interested in the use of syringe exchange as a disease prevention model for injecting drug users. Early SEPs commonly provided assistance to one another but as publicity and interest around syringe exchange as an intervention increased, many were faced with the difficult choice of assisting new exchanges or doing the critical work required of their own programs. Similarly problematic was the need to locate resources and a source for low cost supplies. In 1992, NASEN became an official organization, and formalized the development of several programs that address these and other challenges facing the movement. These programs came to be known as the Buyers Club, NASEN Grants, Start-Up Kits, SEP Directory, and the North American Syringe Exchange Convention (NASEC). Over the years, these programs have become vital to syringe exchange in the US.
The Buyers Club (BC) uses co-op buying power to acquire the lowest syringe prices for large and small exchange programs alike. Through contractual agreement with the manufacturer and wholesale provider, NASEN offers the best non-government price for the most popular syringes used in syringe exchange. The BC also offers one-stop-shopping which is convenient and helps to create a buffer between SEPs and the high pressure sales of some distributors. It uses its leverage to trouble-shoot on behalf of SEPs in a market were size matters and ensures that the cost of distribution and billing errors is not passed on to the SEP. Agreements with domestic and international distributors are developed and maintained by NASEN. These relationships could be difficult or impossible for smaller or new SEPs with little or no credit history to establish on their own. NASEN works with US customs, investigates FDA approval of and product liability for new items and buys in bulk quantity for best pricing, all of which helps to protect SEPs from product failure and to ensure lower cost.
Many small or new SEPs lack the resources and experience to develop competitive funding proposals. NASEN has created a RFP process that targets these programs. NASEN Grants are limited to SEPs with budgets of $75,000 or less. Awards do not exceed $15,000 per program per year but most grant amounts range between $800 and $8,000. NASEN’s funding cycle runs from 1 October to 30 September.
NASEN is the only source of syringe exchange start-up assistance for new programs with little or no operational history or funding. Without initial assistance, many programs would not be able to create the performance record necessary to apply for more substantial funding. A Start-up Kit is $1,200.00 in credit with the Buyers' Club, equal to approximately 14,000 syringes or a combination of syringes and other supplies. These kits are provided to programs that have a confirmed start-up date and staffing commitment to operate the program for a substantial period of time.
Occasionally, SEPs are unable to cover operating expenses for a period of time; this generally occurs when a grant has been awarded but receipt of the funding is delayed. NASEN provides short term assistance in the form of a loan or credit with the Buyers Club so that the program is not forced to curtail or cease operations.
NASEC is the only conference of its kind. While other conferences address syringe exchange within the broader context of harm reduction, NASEC is entirely dedicated to issues facing SEPs and is a unique platform from which these issues can be fully explored. It is an opportunity for SEP staff and interested parties to meet and renew the dedication needed to provide harm reduction services in a demanding and under-resourced environment. NASEN offers financial assistance to ensure representation from small and underfunded exchanges. New models of intervention, discussion of problems and solutions, and information on how to build an exchange program from scratch are presented.
NASEN’s director provides technical assistance to SEPs and other organizations requiring special training or help with problems arising from specific circumstances. Technical assistance ranges from formal speaking engagements to on-site training and consultation.
NASEN collaborates annually with the Beth Israel Medical Center (BIMC) to conduct the most comprehensive survey of SEPs in the US. Information obtained from the survey, which is disseminated at NASEC and published in the CDC’s MMWR, is utilized in national, regional and local reporting. The most recent publication of the survey data is entitled “Doing harm reduction better: syringe exchange in the United States” –Society for the Study of Addiction, doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02465.x.
You're looking at one of them! The modernization of NASEN's website is an ongoing project that will allow us to provide a wide array of web-based services. NASEN's new online presence will provide a simple, cost-efficient and effective way for syringe exchange programs and individuals in the community to communicate, network, and collaborate.
Among the services we have planned are mailing lists for discussion and communication between SEPs, online browsing and ordering for the Buyers Club, and a full-featured social networking system for SEP programs and affiliated individuals.
Also in the works is the PEESE Project, or Principles for Effective and Ethical Syringe Exchange. PEESE is a list of best practices, developed collaboratively by the 180+ existing exchange programs in the US, that can be used by inexperienced staff after the federal ban on SEP funding has been lifted.