Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) and Harm Reduction Programs in Tennessee

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Note: In the table below, click on any agency’s name to learn more about them — such as their phone numbers, social media pages, and websites.

CityAgencyAddressHoursDays
AthensCempa Community Care407 New Englewood Rd.10a – 3pT
ChattanoogaCempa Community Care4001 Rossville Blvd.12p – 4:45p | 8a – 1:45pMTWRF
ClairfieldChoice Health Network*469 Roses Creek Rd.11a – 2pF
JacksonTennessee Harm ReductionUMobile – No Address10a – 11pMTWRFSS
Johnson CityCempa Community Care615 North State of Franklin Rd.1p – 4pT
KnoxvilleChoice Health Network1925 Ailor Ave.10a – 4pMWR
MemphisA Betor Way5829 Summer Ave.6p – 9pF
MemphisPEAS6073 Mount Moriah Rd., Suite 199a – 11p | 9a – 9pMTWRF
MemphisMemphis Area Prevention Coalition28 N Claybrook St.1p – 3pW
MemphisMemphis Area Prevention Coalition3628 Summer Ave.6:30p – 8:30pW
MemphisMemphis Area Prevention Coalition3174 S Third St.11a – 1pM
MemphisMemphis Area Prevention Coalition1725 Pinebrook Dr.1:30p – 3:30pM
NashvilleMainline HR NashvilleUSouth Nashville10a – 4pSun.
NashvilleStreet Works1326B Rosa Parks Blvd.9a – 5pMTWRF
NashvilleStreet Worksø101 Old Trail Ct.CALL AHEADCALL AHEAD
NewportChoice Health Network2165 Cosby Hwy.1p – 3pT
TazewellLive Free – Claiborne1216 Cedar Fork Rd.4p – 5:30pT
* Open every 2nd Friday of the month || By appointment only || ø Call ahead for services || U Unofficial

Overview

Syringe exchanges, officially named Syringe Services Programs (SSP) by the Tennessee Department of Health, provide wraparound harm reduction services to people who use drugs. SSPs perform several crucial functions, including

  • Distributing sterile syringes, naloxone, other safe injection equipment, and sharps disposal containers to people who inject drugs
  • Providing testing for HIV and viral hepatitis
  • Linking people living with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B to treatment
  • Offering overdose prevention education
  • Referring participants to medical, mental health, addiction, and social services providers
  • Educating participants about HIV, viral hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases

Since the State of Tennessee began recognizing Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) as legitimate organizations in late 2017, a total of seven organizations have established 15 active SSP locations across the Volunteer State: six in West Tennessee, two in Middle Tennessee, and seven in East Tennessee. There’s also an unofficial SSP in rural West Tennessee, bringing the total count to 16 SSPs.


West Tennessee

A Betor Way

Phone number: (901) 860-8853

In August 2019, husband-and-wife team Ron and Lisa Bobal founded Memphis’s first official Syringe Services Program, A Betor Way, christening the nonprofit organization in memory of their son Ronnie, who experienced a fatal overdose on Christmas Day, 2016. Its name takes inspiration from their son’s graffiti tag, “Betor,” an identity he developed during his years-long pursuit of street artistry across Memphis.

In July 2022, A Betor Way co-hosted its third-annual Betor Fest, an annual music festival in Memphis that helps fund the organization’s operations. It began in 2019, skipping what would’ve been its second-annual event in 2020 due to COVID; the organization resumed Betor Fest in 2021,

Memphis Area Prevention Coalition

Phone number: (901) 249-2828, (901) 649-2171 (SSP Coordinator), (901) 417-1982

One of the Volunteer State’s 61 prevention coalitions, Memphis Area Prevention Coalition earned Syringe Services Program status in 2020 and currently operates four SSP locations across Memphis as Safe Point. MAPC is the only SSP in Memphis with multiple locations.

While we at Tennessee Harm Reduction are generally critical of prevention coalitions’ staunch anti-drug attitudes and efforts, including their widespread usage of outdated, harmful language in reference to people who use drugs and drug use as a behavior, it’s nice to see one of Tennessee’s prevention coalitions engage in harm reduction.

… and here are Safe Point’s social media pages:

PEAS

Phone number: (901) 315-3316, (901) 234-0220

PEAS, short for the Partnership to End AIDS Status, Inc., is the third and most recent organization to open a Syringe Services Program in Memphis. The nonprofit organization has a long history, dating back to its foundation in 2009 and its attainment of 501(c)(3) status in 2010. It caters to populations that disproportionately experience health disparities, including men who have sex with men, people of transgender experience, and Black women of childbearing age. PEAS primarily offers HIV/HCV services, including testing and education.

Tennessee Harm Reduction

Phone number: (731) 803-0362

Tennessee Harm Reduction — us! — runs rural West Tennessee’s first and only syringe exchange, which began operations in June 2021. To our knowledge, we are the only openly drug-user-run, sex-worker-run syringe exchange in the Volunteer State.

Founder Daniel Patrick Garrett incorporated Tennessee Harm Reduction as a nonprofit corporation with the State of Tennessee in December 2021. In June 2022, we gained 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.

Since we don’t have a location, we’ve developed a unique operating method that allows us to keep ourselves and our participants safe. Here’s how it works:

  • Participants reach out to us during business hours (10a – 11p, Monday – Sunday) and request supplies
  • We then ask participants to meet us at a safe, neutral public location in North Jackson
  • Participants arrive at the location and inform us of their arrival
  • Soon thereafter, we arrive at the location in an unmarked, discreet vehicle
  • The supply distribution process usually takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes

OPPORTUNITY FOR PARTNERSHIP: We are looking for locations in non-Memphis West Tennessee to host Syringe Services Programs. We’re asking to use a small outdoor space for 2-3 hours once per week. The land can be anywhere in rural West Tennessee or Jackson. We do not need help running the SSP — we’ve got that part covered. All we need is the location. If you, your business, or your organization is interested in this opportunity, reach out to us through our Contact page.


Middle Tennessee

Mainline Harm Reduction Nashville

Phone number: Private (use their email for now, listed below)

Mainline Harm Reduction Nashville is the second openly drug user-run harm reduction organization in Tennessee after us, Tennessee Harm Reduction.

Mainline primarily does street-based outreach in South Nashville, their operations beginning in early 2022. While they do have a phone number, they’re choosing not to list it publicly at this time.

Street Works

Phone number: (615) 779-4840, (615) 259-7676

After many years of operating as an underground syringe exchange, Street Works became Tennessee’s first state-approved Syringe Services Program in 2018. Street Works previously ran as many as four official SSP locations in Nashville, today operating at least one of those sites. The Nashville-based organization has a lengthy history, being founded sometime before the turn of the Millennium and earning 501(c)(3) status in 2001.

Note: The list at the top of the page lists two locations for Street Works, one of which we got from their website — the other location comes from the Tennessee Department of Health’s (incomplete, not up-to-date) list of SSP locations.


East Tennessee

Cempa Community Care

Phone number: (423) 781-6686 (Athens), (423) 834-7374 (Chattanooga), (423) 930-8337 ext. 117 (Johnson City)

Cempa Community Care opened its Chattanooga-based Syringe Services Program in early 2018, the second in East Tennessee behind the now-defunct Project ACT’s syringe exchange in Knoxville.

Outside of its syringe exchange(s) and harm reduction efforts, Cempa Community Cares has a longer history than any organization on this list. It was organized in 1986 as a response to the HIV epidemic; just two years later, in 1988, it was granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by the IRS. For 15 years thereafter, Cempa focused on social service advocacy, care, and assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

Around rolls 2002 and Cempa — then known as Chattanooga CARES — expands its services to include medical practice, opening a primary care clinic dedicated to serving PLWHA. Cempa broke history with this expansion, as the Chattanooga Primary Care Clinic became East Tennessee’s first comprehensive clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS.

While Cempa Community Care exclusively focused on all things HIV/AIDS for over 30 years, the organization transitioned from an HIV/AIDS-specific service provider to a full-service community health center in 2019, the year which Cempa began helping East Tennesseans with all illnesses — not just HIV and AIDS. In 2021, the organization opened a pharmacy in Chattanooga.

Cempa Community Care has over six dozen employees and was voted one of Chattanooga’s Best Places to Work in 2022 by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Positively Living/Choice Health Network

Phone number: (865) 208-7356

A group of concerned East Tennesseans founded Positively Living in 1996, where it began as a day center for people living with HIV/AIDS, gaining 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in 1997. Its start-up was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, currently the fifth-largest foundation in the U.S., awarding Positively Living $25,000 to assist people living with HIV and AIDS.

In 2018, Positively Living created Choice Health Network. From a technical, legal perspective, CHN isn’t a free-standing company — it’s simply the label, or brand, it delivers services under. The organization’s legal name — which can be found in government filings like the Form 990, an IRS form that informs the public about a nonprofit organization’s financial information — is still Positively Living, Inc.

Currently, Positively Living/Choice Health Network employs over four dozen staff members and serves over 6,000 participants annually, helping people overcome the often-overlapping issues of homelessness, HIV/AIDS, mental health challenges, LGBTQ discrimination, and chaotic drug use.

Positively Living, Inc. – Annual Revenue (2016-2021)

Year201620172018201920202021
Revenue$449,972$1,979,070$3,057,910$4,700,642$6,976,223$8,614,782
Information pulled from Positively Living’s Form 990 filings, compiled by ProPublica

Broadly, the organization’s services — a full list of which can be found here — fall under three categories:

  • Harm reduction. CHN Harm Reduction gives out syringes, naloxone, and fentanyl test strips. Other services include rapid HIV/hepatitis C (HCV) testing (done via a finger stick) and confirmatory HIV/HCV testing (done via a blood draw), wound care, and medical/mental health/addiction services referrals.
  • Client services. A Ryan White Part B services provider, the organization offers food and transportation assistance, emergency housing services, insurance navigation, case management, and more to Tennessee residents who have HIV and earn less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level ($54,360 for single-person households in 2022 — add $4,720 for every additional resident you live with).
  • Medical clinic. Similar to Cempa Community Care, Positively Living/Choice Health Network now offers a full slate of medical services to participants, including free STI/STD testing, PEP and PrEP, gender-affirming hormone therapy, contraception, immunizations, onsite laboratory services, an in-house pharmacy, and much, much, much more.

Choice Health Network’s Meg Gill, DNP, was named to the Knox.biz 40 Under 40 class of 2021 in January 2022.

Here are Positively Living and Choice Health Network’s social media pages:

… and here are CHN Harm Reduction’s (Note: since Positively Living/Choice Health Network runs its syringe exchanges under the CHN Harm Reduction umbrella, the following social media pages may provide more value about the organization’s needle exchange efforts than the pages listed above):

Live Free – Claiborne

Phone number: (423) 526-5655

Of the three organizations that run Syringe Services Programs in East Tennessee, Live Free – Claiborne is the youngest, earning 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS in 2020.

Live Free – Claiborne runs two support groups: one for addiction recovery, the other for mental health support.