Funding Syringe Exchange Programs

As of July 1, 2017, local funds may be used to purchase syringes, needles and other injection supplies. Programs are still prohibited from spending state or federal funds on these supplies. All public funds may be used for other program development and operation costs (rent, salaries and stipends, testing resources, naloxone training and distribution, etc.). Please contact with questions about public funds eligibility and use.

SEP Supplies and Financial Support

The North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN) provides information, limited loans and grant funding and technical support to new and existing syringe exchange programs. NASEN also runs a cooperative syringe purchasing program, the Buyers Club, to negotiate between manufacturers, wholesale providers and exchanges. Prior to ordering supplies through NASEN, all programs must complete and submit the NASEN Directory Questionnaire. For more information about NASEN’s programs, including the Buyers Club, contact them through

The Comer Family Foundation has provided support to non-profit projects that focus on harm reduction and syringe exchange since 1992. Grant applications are accepted May 1 and November 1 of each calendar year. Average single-year grant awards range from $5,000-30,000. Additional grant details, application and eligibility requirements can be found at

The MAC AIDS Fund offers grants to organizations working with people living with HIV, focusing on the areas of food and nutrition and housing programs. The organization has funded harm reduction and syringe access projects in the past. Interested applicants should contact the Fund for more information.

The Elton John Foundation US branch offers grants in a variety of areas related to healthcare access, HIV prevention, and HIV care, including harm reduction programming. The organization provides funding to both harm reduction and syringe access policy work and to direct services. The Elton John Foundation also provides annual support to the Syringe Access Fund. First-time funding applicants should complete and submit an online letter of inquiry form.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS National Grants provide funding for local and national AIDS service organizations (including harm reduction programs), food access programs, supplemental and emergency grants and community service/health projects by arts organizations. A number of North Carolina-based organizations have received funding from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Please visit for more information and to monitor eligibility for future grant-making cycles.

The Syringe Access Fund, through AIDS United, is a national grant-making collaborative that supports service providers and policy projects working to increase access to sterile injection equipment and to ensure their safe disposal.

Many syringe exchange and harm reduction programs rely on private donations, fundraising, and crowdsourcing efforts to supplement limited public and grant funding. Though not recommended, some programs allow participants to leave tips and donations when visiting exchanges. Donations must be based entirely on the participant’s discretion, and financial contribution should never be a condition of or requirement for visiting an exchange. Exchanges and programs should decide for themselves how to broach the issue of accepting donations from participants based on other funding sources, relationships with participants, and the ability to offer services.


SEP Operations Funding

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers funding for jurisdictions deemed to either be experiencing a documented increase in HIV and hepatitis C diagnoses or have demonstrated that they are at risk of “a significant increase in hepatitis infections or an HIV outbreak due to injection drug use.” While a federal provision (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016) bars federal money (including funding distributed through the CDC) from being used “to purchase sterile needles or syringes for the purposes of hypodermic injection of any illegal drug, it allows for federal funds to be used for other aspects of SSPs [syringe services programs] based on the evidence of demonstrated need.” For information about requesting use of CDC funds for SSPs, please check the CDC Program Guidance for Implementing Certain Components of Syringe Service Programs, 2016, The Department of Health and Human Services Implementation Guidance to Support Certain Components of Syringe Services Programs, 2016, or visit  

The AIDS United webinar, “Implementing the Syringe Services Guidance: Tips, Tools and Technical Assistance for Community-Based Organizations,” provides a great introduction to establishing syringe exchanges and navigating federal parameters and private funding. The webinar also touches on data collection and advocacy for community-based organizations.

Module 1: Planning and Design, Section VI. Funding Issues

It is true that funding is limited, and while about half of syringe access programs in the world operate with a budget of $100,000 or less, there is funding.
A successful strategy for funding syringe access programs will:

  • Be well organized and well informed
  • Take full advantage of public and private resources at the community, city, state and federal levels
  • Tailor funding proposals to highlight the benefits of the SAP [SEP] in relation to the needs and goals of the potential funding source
  • Use needs assessment to inform on local drug user issues including unique needs and gaps in services
  • Take advantage of support from community allies and advocates
  • Apply a creative approach
  • Maintain focus and persistence

When applying for funding be mindful of requirements that will be tied to monies received. In some cases the reporting and evaluation requirements attached to project awards can be strenuous. There may be political ramifications associated with accepting money from certain sources. These considerations with others will be weighed against the benefit of receiving funds essential for basic operations. Although it is possible to start and run programs on an entirely volunteer basis and with donations of syringes and other supplies (maintaining more program control) this strategy faces significant challenges to the long-term sustainability because of shifts in supply availability, staffing and potential conflicts in ideas about program direction.

Budget Considerations

  • Here are a couple of items that could get overlooked when putting together a budget. Not all are essential but may be worth consideration:
  • Stipends: For interns and/ or peer workers
  • Travel reimbursement: For volunteers, interns and/or peers. Particularly in areas with extensive public transit, travel reimbursement can be an option for implementing participant compensation programs if necessary.
  • Insurance: Several kinds of insurance may be necessary including renters insurance, loss or theft insurance, vehicle insurance for mobile programs, product insurance (computers, photocopiers, etc.)
  • Office supplies: Although it seems obvious, costs for toner for printers and/or copiers and other basic office supplies can add up.
  • Cleaning: Depending on the model (fixed site, etc.), the number of staff and/or the level of foot traffic anticipated at the program, it may be necessary to hire someone to clean the program on a regular basis. This can also be a job designated in part to volunteers or as a job training initiative, in which case funding should still be allocated for the position.
  • Staff development costs: On-going training and support for staff is essential for preventing burn-out and high staff turnover. Consider costs of training for staff, as well as staff clinical supervision and/or retreats.
  • Basic comfort supplies: Making the SAP [SEP] a comfortable place to hang out is important. Consider costs of creating a warm and hospitable environment for participants with coffee, food, games, television/entertainment, artwork, etc.

When researching potential foundations

  • Be sure to carefully investigate the foundation’s specific aims, goals and requests (i.e. restrictions, reporting requirements, budgetary limitations, etc.).
  • Explore foundations that support HIV and HCV prevention, public health and/drug user health and rights, homelessness and poverty issues, general social welfare and social justice initiatives, among others.
  • Some funders that may not be willing to fund syringe access directly, may still be interested in funding ancillary services, such as testing, counseling, other prevention efforts, etc.
  • When you find a potential funder, look at previous grant recipients to see what kinds of specific projects the foundation awards money to.
  • Be sure to look at typical award amounts to inform your budget and assure that it will be worth the effort it takes to prepare a comprehensive proposal. A list of funding resource links can be found in Appendix A of the Harm Reduction Coalition guide.
  • The Foundation Center provides services to help research and locate appropriate sources for funding.

Other private sources of funding worthy of inquiry may include:

  • Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Research Institutes
  • Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Corporate Sponsors
  • Individual Donors
  • Professional fundraisers and/or fundraising events