Needle exchange programs look to rehabilitate users and prevent spread of disease

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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) Three Eastern Kentucky counties now have needle exchange programs thanks to an expanded initiative by the Kentucky River District Health Department.

Perry, Letcher and Wolfe Counties have just added the new programs hoping to stunt the drug epidemic and spread of Hepatitis C and HIV.

"Needle exchange is an evidence-based intervention designed to prevent the spread of a communicable disease," said Scott Lockard the Public Health Director at the Kentucky River District Health Department.

A common theme among those who oppose needle exchange programs says they enable drug users to continue their habit. Those who support them say it is a way to control the numbers and protect the public too.

"If you believe in the dignity of the individual and every life is worth saving were trying to work and see value in everybody that comes through our doors," said Lockard.

Lockard points out that the price of bringing in used needles and exchanging them for clean ones is small compared to what it would be if they had to treat the diseases.

"The cost to treat one case to treat Hepatitis C can be over 80 thousand dollars," said Lockard "and the cost for someone who contracts HIV can cost over half a million dollars," he added.

Lee and Owsley Counties have had their needle exchange programs for a few months now and officials say the impact on the communities can be seen already.

"Education in the community, education to our partners and getting people inside," said Libby Turner the Nurse Administrator for the Kentucky River District Health Department.

The needle exchange program hours in Perry County are Mondays and Fridays 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

In Letcher County Wednesdays from 8:00 to 11:00 am and Fridays 1:00 to 3:30 p.m.

In Wolfe County Thursday 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

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