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Monday, March 16, 2015
Kentucky Considers Adopting Needle-Exchange Program /BY JOIN TOGETHER STAFF March 11th, 2015/
Kentucky Considers Adopting Needle-Exchange Program
March 11th, 2015/
Kentucky legislators are considering adopting a needle-exchange program, in an effort to reduce the spread of hepatitis C among injection drug users. The nearby city of Portsmouth, Ohio, has had some success with a similar program, USA Today reports.
In 2012, Portsmouth began a weekly syringe exchange in response to high rates of hepatitis C among people injecting heroin. The exchange program gives out an average of 5,000 clean needles monthly. The program is funded by donations, the article notes. According to public health officials, the program has helped reduce hepatitis C. People served by the program have received treatment, testing and counseling, which they might not otherwise seek, officials say.
Portsmouth Health Commissioner Chris Smith said the program has had some successes, but also faces obstacles. Between 2011 and 2012, the hepatitis C rate decreased from 309 per 100,000 in Scioto County, Ohio, where Portsmouth is located, to 171 per 100,000. The state average is 32 per 100,000. Roberts said almost half of the exchange’s clients have agreed to seek addiction treatment, although many eventually relapse.
The Kentucky General Assembly is considering a needle-exchange program as part of a larger package of legislation designed to fight the state’s increasing heroin problem. The programs would not be required, but health departments and cities would be allowed to adopt them. The bill would not provide state funding, and federal money cannot be used for the programs.
In 2012, there were 4.1 cases of hepatitis C per 100,000 Kentucky residents, compared with 0.07 in 2007, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Cases are as high as 10.9 per 100,000 in Northern Kentucky, where heroin use is rampant, the article notes.
Under current Kentucky law, pharmacies keep records of syringe sales. This law often leads people abusing drugs to re-use needles.