Mayor Fischer says Louisville will have needle exchange program - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Mayor Fischer says Louisville will have needle exchange program to combat heroin

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A controversial feature of the new heroin law will be coming to Louisville.

Mayor Greg Fischer says he has directed the Metro Public Health Department to see what it will take to implement a needle exchange program here in Louisville.

When Gov. Steve Beshear signed the heroin bill Wednesday morning, it immediately became law. Now, if they choose, cities and counties across the state can begin programs allowing addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones.

"Metro Louisville will adopt a needle exchange program. It's good public health policy. Now that we can see what the bill includes, we'll see what that program is going to look like," Fischer told WDRB.

The mayor says he does not need the OK from Metro Council to begin the program, but the Council will have input.

"Metro Council approves the budget, not necessarily line-item by line-item, but any cost will be included in the budget," he said.

Council President David Tandy says he's open to the idea, but wants to see more research.

"I think everything needs to be on the table for us as a community, as policy makers to look at what we can do to help eradicate the heroin epidemic that we're facing," said Tandy.

Council member Vicki Aubrey Welch, a former nurse and a strong advocate of the heroin bill, says she's undecided about needle exchange, but admits her constituents are divided.

"Some people are saying that giving them clean needles is just increasing their habit. But the data doesn't show that. So, I have to look at the data," she said.

Health Department officials would not go on camera, but did issue the following statement to WDRB:

The landmark legislation offers public health solutions to a state-wide problem. It offers funding for treatment and gives people burdened with addiction the opportunity for recovery. The needle exchange provision of the law can help to reduce the transmission of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C and will lead addicted individuals to seek counseling, testing and treatment.

We are studying local implementation, but there are still many steps and questions that need to be examined, including costs, locations and possible partners for the exchange.

Mayor Fischer will not need convincing.

"Those are things, from a public health standpoint we want to see take place, so our Public Health & Wellness Dept. is looking at the bill right now to see what it's going to take to implement a local program," said Fischer.

The mayor did not give a time table as to when a needle exchange program might begin, but the city's new fiscal year begins July 1.

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