Citizen would like to see syringe exchange program implementd

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The Center for Disease Control is begging for counties to establish needle exchange programs. Some individuals feel that Needle exchange programs encourage, enable or increase drug use, as well as crime. Research by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association shows that needle exchange programs decrease drug use by connecting people to treatment. Needle exchange program participants are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than non-participants. The research shows there is no indication that needle exchange programs increase crime. They also do not encourage addicts to use drugs more often or for individuals to begin using drugs.

Needle exchange programs can reduce disease. Due to addicts sharing dirty needles, in 2016, Taylor County ranked 75th in the nation in cases of HIV and/or Hepatitis C. Taylor County currently is a county declared on the verge of having an epidemic of HIV and/or Hepatitis C cases. Needle exchange programs are one of the most effective ways to decrease the spread of HIV and of Hepatitis C and other blood borne diseases.

Needle exchange programs provide an opportunity for individuals to have medical care, community resources, to be tested for Hepatitis C, HIV and other diseases.

Needle exchange programs are conducted by county health departments. They are actually a chance to reach out to a drug addict and offer them help. Rather than reuse and share dirty needles with other people, they turn in their used or “dirty” needles in exchange for unused, clean needles.

Needle exchange programs help reduce the problem of drug users disposing of dirty needles improperly in ditches, trash cans, public parks, etc. where they can endanger children, maintenance and sanitation workers, police and firefighters. The powder of one of the drugs is so powerful, if it is touched in picking up a needle, it is fatal. The needle exchange program provides participants with a safe container in which to place needles to bring for exchange. They reduce needle-stick injury to law enforcement, which can cause HIV and/or Hepatitis C, by 66 percent and create safer environments for the community at large.

Needle Exchange Participants are also given counseling, wound care supplies, safer injection supplies, biohazard containers/sharps containers, and HIV/Hepatitis C testing. Some want to say, “If people just had a better reign on their teenagers, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

While some teens do have a drug problem, the majority are past their teenage years. Addiction does not necessarily start with someone wanting to get high. Roughly 83 percent of addictions start with a prescription. For many, it starts when they have severe pain (even teeth related), have suffered an injury, and/or have had surgery and received an opioid prescription. 

Being an addict is an extremely painful and sickening disease when the drug is not available. That is why addicts cannot just quit. They have to be helped medically and with counseling.

In 6 years, Taylor County has had 46 overdose deaths; that’s 46 devastated families. It is not just happening to low income families and those who don’t take good care of their children. It is happening to all levels.

Having a needle exchange program is cost effective by avoiding the much higher cost of treating people with HIV and/or Hepatitis C. Kentucky Medicaid paid $69.7 million on pharmaceutical claims to treat 833 cases of Hepatitis C and/or HIV last year.

We should not continue to ignore the drug situation in our county. It is time to deal with the facts, strive to protect the health of our community members, and do something productive toward our drug problem. A Needle exchange program would be a perfect place to start. Consider letting members of the Fiscal Court know that you support, and we need, a needle exchange program.

Faye Howell