Council members get progress report on needle exchange - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Council members get progress report on needle exchange

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Metro Health officials believe putting clean needles in the hands of drug users is saving lives.

Metro Louisville's needles exchange program started in June. The goal is prevent the spread of hepatitis C, HIV and AIDS.

On Thursday, members of metro council got a progress report on the first 4 months of the program.

"Every person they get in there is a success," said Diane Hague, Director of Jefferson Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center or JADAC.

Hague said putting clean needles in the hands of drug users does not encourage drug use, but instead helps prevent the spread of deadly viruses. "If we were giving out drugs, that would be encouraging drug use; we are giving needles that are clean so people will not spread Hepatitis C or HIV or AIDS."

In June, the Metro Health Department started a needle exchange program inside this RV parked outside the department's Gray Street office.

"And so far it is working," said Dr. Sarah Moyer, Interim Metro Health Director.

Thursday afternoon, Dr. Moyer gave Metro Council a progress report.

She said, "We've had 822 participants and 325 people that have come back more than once."

Health officials are trying to prevent an HIV outbreak like the one we've seen in Austin, Indiana and say in addition to saving lives, the program saves money.

Dr. Moyer said, "The cost of treatment for Hepatitis C is about 80 to 90 thousand dollars but if you actually look at if someone who doesn't get treated...over a lifetime it cost closer to 3, 3 to 4 hundred thousand dollars."

With the success of the program, health officials are now in the process of bringing in mobile units to reach users in more zip codes.

"We think if we make accessibility easier, we may be able to identify more addicts more addicts, remove some of the needles from the street, get some of these people some help and reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis," said District 25 Councilman David Yates.

Meanwhile, Diane Hague said the other upside is helping drug users get medical attention if needed. "They get connected immediately if they want it, if they don't want it immediately, we at least talk to them and they know where we are."

Health officials say no one has tested positive for HIV, however, they have seen some new hepatitis C cases.

The mobile needles exchange units should be in place by the end of the week.

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