New Director of Metro Public Health and Wellness talks opioid ep - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New Director of Metro Public Health and Wellness talks opioid epidemic, Zika virus

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Tackling issues like heroin abuse and the Zika virus, the new director of Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness met with members of Metro Council on Wednesday. 

Dr. Joann Schulte started about a month ago after moving from Texas, where she worked as a Medical Toxicology Fellow at the North Texas Poison Control Center at Parkland Memorial Hospital. 

"People have asked me, what are some of the things I'm interested in," Dr. Schulte said to the Committee on Health and Education. "I'm interested in violence prevention and the opioid epidemic." 

Schulte comes to a community battling both problems. She's says she plans to explore what's causing violence in the city. 

The spike in heroin use is also a top priority. Both overdoses and treatment options were discussed at the meeting. 

"People don't want to hear it described as a chronic illness, but that's what it is," Schulte said. 

Louisville Metro started a needle exchange program almost a year ago to stop the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C among addicts. 

Schulte says thousands of people have used the program. She says the department will take part in a conference call later this month so other communities can learn what it takes to run a needle exchange. 

"I think there is interest from other parts of the state as they realize that you can't deny it anymore. It's there," she said. 

Another public health issue on a lot of minds is the Zika Virus. Metro Council members asked Dr. Schulte about the growing concern. 

"The issue I think for Louisville and for other U.S. states will be how long will it take Zika to get here and how much of it will there be," Schulte said. 

She says people have come back to Kentucky from other countries with Zika, but it hasn't been transmitted locally yet. She says the health department will continue to track and test mosquitoes for Zika and other diseases. 

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