Supporters urge patience for Louisville's needle exchange program
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More needles are going out than coming in, which is a concern from some state lawmakers about Louisville's needle exchange program.
Some skeptics at the Capitol say Louisville's program is more a needle dispensary than a needle exchange.
The Louisville Metro Health department has given out more than 1,000 clean needles to addicts since the exchange program began in June.
“We're following best practices nationally and internationally, and we believe it's working,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, interim director of Louisville Dept. of Health and Wellness.
Moyer told lawmakers at a hearing in Frankfort that the exchange will reduce the rates of HIV and Hepatitis C.
“Every time the user can use a clean needle with each injection, the greater chance we have of preventing transmission. That's our goal with our program,” Moyer told WDRB News.
But some remain concerned Louisville is giving out twice the number of needles than it's taking in.
“What we had heard in initial testimony was that this was about getting dirty needles off the street. And the fact of the matter remains there are still thousands more needles on the street as a result of it,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill).
McDaniel says he will propose changes to the heroin law in the 2016 session. But he's not ready to say that requiring a more even exchange will be among them.
“The bill is certainly going to have some tweaks. I don't want to say any specific section will or won't be addressed. Certainly, I know that will be an ongoing conversation,” he said.
Supporters argue needle exchange programs should remain under local control, pointing out that In Louisville, the ratio is already dropping from 9-1 to 2-1.
“I think all the studies that we looked at showed us that's something that evens out as time goes on,” said Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville).
Supporters hope lawmakers give the program time to work.
“We picked a model that is working great for Louisville, and we want to be able to be able to continue that, so we hope that does not change,” she said.
“I don't think it is wise policy for us to say exactly this is what the rate should be. But certainly, we'd like to see it brought more in line with the intent, which was to get those needles off the streets,” said McDaniel.
Supporters say it could be years before we know the full impact on the streets of Louisville's needle exchange program.
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