ATLANTA, Ga. (WYMT) - The opioid epidemic has brought about a multitude of byproduct with it. One that is sweeping communities across the country is infectious diseases due to needle sharing.
"There's this confluence of three things. The HIV rate, the Hep C rate, and the opioid epidemic," said Wayne Smith the Director of Samaritan Ministry in Knoxville.
Smith says there are many parallels between Kentucky and Tennessee, especially in their rural counties.
The two states are hyper-focused on their rural population and its drug use after a 2015 HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana.
"There are a lot of counties in Kentucky and Tenessee that mirror that kind of demographic," said Smith.
Smith and the other two people on his panel all have up close and personal experiences with success in needle exchange programs, and Smith believes that the science behind it is almost indisputable.
"It all boils down to a science. Quit the moral messaging and putting people down and categorizing people," said Smith.
In the end, Smith and his faith-based organization believe there is a moral obligation to help, in any means possible.
"Jesus taught we're supposed to love each other and love our neighbors. So, how do we do that? How do we make that happen in our community, we have to talk to people and love on people regardless of what is going on in their lives," said Smith.
Knowing that helping because there is a person there and not a personal belief system.