They come in crumpled paper bags or inside empty water bottles. Sometimes, they come in buckets. Whatever the vessel, when the dirty needles are handed in, they’re traded for clean ones.
In the 28 years since it opened, the core mission of the Tacoma Needle Exchange has stayed the same: to stop the spread of disease among intravenous drug users.
But the job, and the challenges, have changed. With surging rates of new infections, hepatitis C has become one of the chief public health concerns among those who shoot up heroin and other drugs, and more and more people are coming to the exchange each year.