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Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Earlier this spring, a few dozen people sat in a Bakersfield conference room in front of a table piled high with nondescript white boxes, each a little wider than a shoebox. Among those was Heather Menzel, who, along with three colleagues, couldn’t wait to grab as many as possible. When the man behind the table asked how many she wanted, Menzel answered simply, “as many as we can all collectively get together.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

This story is part of a series called In Recovery, about opioid addiction and treatment in the San Joaquin Valley. It was reported with the support of a 2018 Data Fellowship from the USC Center For Health Journalism.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The last time we reported about the Fresno Needle Exchange, it was an illegal program, operating without support from policymakers and under threat of police intervention. It became legal in 2012 under a state law. Now, the program is more popular than ever, and new research suggests it’s making the community safer.

Michael lives in north Fresno. He’s 56. He studied social work and he’s now self-employed. He has a daughter in nearby Dinuba.