To evaluate whether Kentucky counties that established a new syringe services program realized a significant decline in the incidence rate of a set of infectious disease diagnoses commonly transmitted via injection drug use.
Longitudinal count models of within-county rates of newly diagnosed infections among populations at risk were estimated using Medicaid claims/encounters data. Generalized estimating equation models were used to report incident rate ratios of 6 diagnoses: (1) HIV; (2) hepatitis C; (3) hepatitis B; (4) osteomyelitis; (5) endocarditis; and (6) skin/soft tissue infection. To investigate whether a delay in effect was present, separate models were fit to estimate the effects of establishing a syringe services program: at its opening date, and again at 1, 3, and 6 months postopening date.
Taken together, the aggregated within-county incidence rate of these 6 diagnoses was significantly lower following the implementation of a syringe services program (P < .05). Our models estimated that counties which opted to open a syringe services program realized an approximate month-over-month decline in new diagnoses of 0.5% among the population at risk.
These results lend further support to previous conclusions made in the public health literature regarding the efficacy of syringe services programs. Specifically, declines in incidence rates were observable beginning at 1 month post syringe services program opening. These results are particularly notable due to the typical setting in which these syringe services programs operated-rural communities of fewer than 40,000 residents.

© 2021 National Rural Health Association.