NC Church Harm Reduction and Syringe Exchange Program

Green Street United Methodist Church -Twin City Harm Reduction Collective

A United Methodist minister, Rev. Sarah Howell-Miller once happened to share a stance with legislators opposing opioid addict needle exchange programs. Howell-Miller thought that providing addicts with the means to shoot up was an absolutely “garbage” idea.

However, this all changed when she fell in love with a drug user. Colin Miller turned to heroin when he was just 18. His first time at a syringe exchange was when he was homeless and living on the streets of Minneapolis.

Colin Miller said he was taught how to safely shoot up by the clinic. When Colin Miller was sick of that life and wanted to detox, the exchange was the first place he went to.

Miller describes the care and love he received as “unconditional.” Colin Miller has turned over a new leaf and is now employed with North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services as a harm reduction consultant. His background has turned him into a strong advocate for programs such as needle exchanges.

Miller came to Rev. Kelly Carpenter, pastor of Green Street United Methodist Church, three years ago with an idea. Miller wanted to start a clinic like the one he went to in Minneapolis. In 2016, the Twin City Harm Reduction Collective was born.

In the basement of the Green Street Church has been stocked with everything a drug user might need such as sterile water, syringes and so on. Every month, approximately 130 people drop in to collect supplies. They get tested for HIV and hepatitis C while they are there. All of this is done for free and is confidential.

One 25-year-old heroin user who receives supplies from the clinic said that the clinic is an important thing to have because of people in society who are homeless using drugs.

Howell-Miller has said when it comes to people who constantly have to struggle with substance abuse, to be able to “just walk into a syringe exchange, that’s an act of caring for themselves is an act of caring for themselves.”

Green Street’s mission is “to do ministry with people that other people do not want to associate with.” Green Street Church does ministry with poor people as well as LGBTQ people. Carpenter said the church “is trying to meet people where they are.”

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