IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia County Health Department is expanding its Syringe Services Program.

Instead of offering services one day a week, the program will be staffed five days a week — open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays.

“We want to be the hub where people can come in and get multiple services,” Debbie Thalison, Ionia County’s community health supervisor and substance abuse prevention director, told News 8.

The program launched in February 2020. It is designed for people who use illegal drugs. Instead of reusing or sharing needles, which can spread diseases like HIV and hepatitis, the program serves as a safe place to get rid of dirty needles and get clean ones. Thalison said it’s a program designed to protect people and provide help.

“If they’re ready to get into some treatment, inpatient, outpatient, support meetings or if they need any medical (help),” Thalison said. “We want it to be a place where, yes, these people are having some struggles, but we also want it to be welcoming.”

Aimee Keefer, Ionia County’s personal health director, said the program’s services go far beyond needles.

“Maybe they’re (participating in) some risky sexual behaviors and they need to have STD testing. We can get them STD testing,” Keefer told News 8. “We can offer counseling about harm reduction and correcting some of those risky behaviors.”

The health department can also help people enroll in social programs, including Medicaid or WIC.

“We have the ability to get them Medicaid if they’re eligible,” Keefer said. “We can get them immunizations through our immunization clinic, get them their hepatitis B or hepatitis A vaccines, HPV vaccines.”

The department hopes the added hours encourages more people to take advantage of its services and wants people to know the program’s work is completely private.

“It’s confidential. Anything in our agency is confidential. So no matter what service you’re coming in for, we don’t disclose what you’re in coming in for,” Thalison said.

Anyone is welcome to bring in used syringes for proper disposal. The syringes must be capped and stored in a plastic container. The Syringe Services Program is inside the south entrance of the health department’s facility.