Officials hope needle disposal boxes will keep the community safer

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JACKSON, Ky. (WYMT) - Needle exchange programs can be controversial. Some argue it enables drug users, others feel like it stops the spread of diseases and prevents dirty needles from being found in the community.

"We've had cases where kids are playing in the park and they run across a needle. It happened to one of the ladies on our coalition", said Karen Griffith, who works with Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) and UNITE Coalition.

A grant provided by Kentucky ASAP and UNITE Coalition is helping to fight the drug problem in the area. It funds Naloxone training, it helped create the needle exchange program, and paid for three needle disposal boxes.

"We didn't want the public to think we were promoting drug use", said Griffith. "We didn't want people to think we were making needles available for drug use. Whenever we looked at the statistics and we saw that Breathitt County was one of the five counties in the United States where there might be a danger of a hepatitis outbreak, we thought we have to do something."

Police says they get calls about needles found in the community every day and it puts their health at risk.

"We were on a search warrant and we were getting ready to leave. We were getting ready to leave. We picked up a bad and there was an uncapped needle and it poked him in the hand", said Jackson Police Chief Kenneth Spicer.

Drug users now have three places they can dispose of dirty needles: City Hall, the Breathitt County Courthouse, or the Jackson Fire Department.

"If they're coming here, trying to do the right thing, get rid of their needles, dispose of them properly, they're not going to get arrested", said Spicer. "We're here to help the community. We're here to make sure the community is safe."

Spicer says the needle disposal box will soon be placed outside city hall so it can be accessed 24 hours a day.

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