County re-approves needle exchange 4-3

Clark County’s needle exchange program got the votes it needed to continue, though reservations remain among the county magistrates.

Wednesday morning, the Clark County Fiscal Court voted 4-3 to re-authorize the program after hearing from Clark County Health Director Scott Lockard and others about the six-month-old program.

Last week, the Winchester Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to continue its support of the exchange.

Lockard said the exchange is designed to be part of the solution of used needles in the community as well as preventing the spread of diseases including hepatitis C. Participants can receive up to 21 one-use needles on Friday afternoons when the exchange is open, he said. Participants can be connected for other resources and treatment options, he said.

To a person, the six magistrates said they struggled with their votes at some point. Magistrate Joe Graham initially passed on voting before finally voting no along with Magistrates Daniel Konstantopoulos and Greg Elkins.

One of the biggest concerns is the exchange is currently giving out more needles than are being brought back. In the first six months, Lockard said given out 4,542 needles and collected 3,996 needles for a ratio of 1.36 to 1. Lockard said more mature exchange programs have seen the ratio drop to 1.2 to 1, and said getting to 1 to 1 is a goal.

“I don’t know if 1:1 is possible,” Graham said. “As long as I had encouraged the 1:1 is stressed, I think I can go along with it.

“It’s an exchange program, not a distribution program,” Lockard said. “I appreciate those who are able to stretch out of their comfort zone” to support the program.

Konstantopoulos, likewise, was concerned that more needles were going out and said the exchange may not be the most effective way to fight drug addiction.

“Philosophically, I’m still not comfortable with it but it’s the best we can do,” Magistrate Robert Blanton said.

Magistrate Sheila McCord said she was behind the program.

“When it hit close to home with a family member, it changed my mind,” she said.

“It’s kind of like swallowing something sideways,” Judge-Executive Henry Branham said. “It’s part of ‘something else’ the community will have to do.”

In the first six months of the program, Lockard said 75 people have participate in the program for a total of 233 visits to the health department. Two of those have registered for outpatient drug treatment and another two have signed up for residential treatment, he said. One person

Lockard also said he would provide quarterly updates to the Fiscal Court about the exchange.