Needle exchange continues to grow

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2016

After almost five months of existence, Clark County’s needle exchange program is attracting more than 10 people a week, according to health officials.

Most, of not all, of those participants are repeat visitors, Clark County Public Health Director Scott Lockard said.

“We’re pleased,” Lockard said “We think it’s good public health.”

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The program was approved in the spring by both the Winchester Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Fiscal Court. Both bodies approved the program for six months. Lockard said he is planning to make a presentation to both organizations in January to seek their continued support.

On the last two Fridays the exchange was open, Lockard said 24 participants came in, and all but three were repeat visitors. Since the exchange opened July 15, 63 people have participated for a total of 188 visits, he said.

“We’re seeing double digits every Friday,” Lockard said. “We’re very pleased with the results we’re seeing with the exchange.”

The needle exchange is open at the Clark County Health Department from noon to 4 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 23 and 30; it will be open Dec. 29 instead, he said.

Participants can exchange used needles for new one-use retractable needles, which helps curb the public health risk from used needles in public areas, he said. As of Dec. 2, 3,096 used needles have been collected and 4,175 have been dispensed, he said, for a ratio of 1.35 new needles per used needle.

“For a young exchange, that’s very much in line,” he said. “With return visits, that will get closer to 1:1, which is what we hope for.”

The exchange also offers resources and information for treatment for addictions, he said.

“We’ve had three (people) that actually enrolled in residential drug treatment from the exchange,” he said. “Hopefully we can convince people to get resources and get out of the lifestyle.”

While fighting drug addiction is one facet of the exchange, another is stemming the spread of other diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C, he said. During the last three months, Lockard said 29 cases of Hepatitis C were reported in Clark County.

“We’re seeing a huge problem with Hepatitis C in the community,” he said. “That tells us we need to be reaching more (people). We need many more participants to be as effective as possible. I’d like to see it double that amount. We need to reach everyone we possibly can.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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