PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — More than 300 people died of a heroin overdose in Philadelphia in 2014 and thousands more live in the darkness of addiction. But a Kensington, a non-profit is offering a beacon of hope.
At 34, Patrick has been addicted to heroin since he was 18. He like thousands of addicts regularly stop at this old church, where Prevention Point provides check ups, housing, food, and exchanges dirty needles for clean ones.
“I need 10 of the regular ones, and 10 of the other ones,” Patrick said. Needles are a notorious tool used by addicts to shoot heroin.
Judith Porter is being honored by the AIDS Fund this month for passing out syringes in shooting galleries in the 90’s, a time when half of AIDS cases came from tainted needles.
“Drug users have been stigmatized and so on, but they are people just like everyone else,” she says.
Jose Benitez, the executive director of Prevention Point says treating someone is easier than we think.
“It costs about 8 cents for us to exchange a needle. It costs about a million dollars to treat someone with HIV in their life time,” she says.
Needle exchanges like the one here at prevention point have faced controversy for decades, critics say the service encouraged drug use, but supporters say it’s a bridge that saves lives. Benitez says needles are a small price; they were the tool that helped reel nearly a thousand into recovery last year, and Patrick’s hoping he’s next.