Background/Objectives: Co-located models of care at syringe service programs (SSPs) can improve health outcomes for persons who inject drugs (PWID). The NYS Department of Health has provided enhanced funding to some SSPs, designating them as “Drug User Health Hubs,” designed to promote services addressing opioid overdoses, including buprenorphine treatment. An improved understanding of the implementation of services addressing opioid overdoses as Health Hubs compared to standalone SSPs is crucial for optimizing service delivery. We sought to understand implementation of co-located care through a qualitative descriptive study of services offered by Health Hubs compared to standalone SSPs in upstate NYS.
Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 6 staff-members from 3 Health Hubs and 5 staff-members from 3 standalone SSPs. Participants were selected based on participation in an ongoing evaluation study of the Health Hubs program. Interviews were conducted over WebEx, recorded and transcribed. Interviews were coded using content analysis, aiming to describe their services and elicit contrasts between Health Hubs and standalone SSPs.
Results: Health Hubs uniquely offered co-located buprenorphine treatment in a “low barrier” model. They received more referrals to their services and referrals from more diverse sources than standalone SSPs; respondents attributed this to an increased community profile after being designated a Health Hub. Health Hub partnerships included those with emergency departments, medical providers and local law enforcement. Health Hubs and SSPs both provided client navigation services, infectious diseases testing, and overdose aftercare, but more Health Hubs provided aftercare through collaboration with local emergency departments.
Conclusions: In addition to providing buprenorphine treatment and critical services for PWID, Health Hubs had unique community relationships with wider variety of referral sources and collaborations compared to SSPs. Future studies should investigate how Health Hubs and SSPs understand their role in providing care to PWID.