Our view: Needle plan now clear of first hurdle

Published 9:38 am Friday, January 20, 2017

Winchester’s Board of Commissioners gets the point — so to speak — when it comes to the Clark County Needle Exchange, and we hope the Clark County Fiscal Court follows the city’s lead.

The city commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to allow the program that provides outreach and services for those battling drug addiction to continue beyond its trial phase.

Now, the fiscal court will have to take its own action on the measure.

The needle exchange program was approved by both entities in March 2016 with the caveat that it would be reviewed after six months.

Scott Lockard, public health director at the Clark County Health Department, presented the six-month data for the program at the commission’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Lockard said the program has three clear goals: to protect the community and first responders from the dangers of being accidentally stuck by a used needle, to link injectable drug users to treatment and to attempt to combat the increase in cases of communicable diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV that have become a public health epidemic in Kentucky.

Along with sterile needles, participants are given a small container to dispose of their needles and exchange at their next visit.

The program also provides participants access to vaccinations, the overdose prevention drug naloxone, assistance enrolling in health care coverage, counseling and education, treatment and a variety of other services administered by the county health department. Participants are also referred to other agencies for assistance with food and housing.

The stats alone show the program is making an impact.

— Served 75 participants with a total of 233 visits since opening July 15, 2016.

— 3,996 needles have been collected and 5,442 needles have been dispensed,

— Four participants have been referred to treatment programs,

— 29 have been referred to the CCHD clinic for sexually transmitted disease, HIV and hepatitis C testing

— Two have been referred to family planning at the clinic.

However, make no mistake about it, this program isn’t about numbers at all. It is about helping people and changing lives.

We applaud city and county leaders for taking this proactive and progressive stance to address this component of the addiction problem facing our community and, ultimately, our entire country.

Far too often, the approach is simply for people to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like the drug problem is happening somewhere else.

If even one person is able to use this program to break the cycle of addiction or seek the help they need, then the needle exchange is time and money well spent.