Health department adding needle-exchange site - The Courier-Journal

Buy PhotoThe mobile unit for the needle exchange at the Department of Public Health & Wellness.(Photo: By Michael Clevenger/The Courier-Journal)Buy Photo

Louisville's health department is opening anothersite for intravenous drug users to access itsneedle-exchange programas it topped 2,000 participants.

The program is aimed at reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases such asHIV and hepatitis C, which have spreadamid the region's rising heroin epidemic.

Health officials say the new site will open Wednesday, Feb. 17 in a vacant lot owned by the Louisville Metro Housing Authority at 1455 Bicknell Avenue.It will be operated by Volunteers of America, which isunder a contract with the city,and open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.each Wednesday.

"We hope that the newest community outreach for the Louisville Metro Syringe Exchange Program will make services available to more people, particularly to those who do not have access to an automobile,"said Sarah Moyer, interim director of MetroPublic Health and Wellness.

The needle exchange opened itfirst community outreach site last Octoberat the Lake Dreamland Fire Station, 4603 Cane Run Road. That site is open from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday.

Itsmain site is in a mobile unit adjacent to the health departmentheadquarters at 400 E. Gray St.That site is open from11 a.m. to 4 p.m.Monday; 1-6 p.m. Tuesday andWednesday; 3-6 p.m.Thursday;11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday; and11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

Moyer's department reports they havereferred106 participantsfor drug treatment.

Louisville'sneedle exchange has been under scrutiny from Republicanstate lawmakers who said they wereupset because the city was not giving out syringeson a one-for-one basis of those brought inby a participant. Former Attorney General Jack Conway said in a December opinion that local health departments may provide syringesregardless of whether a program participant has old needles to turn in.

GOP lawmakers had indicated they would file legislation this legislative session to curb the syringe distribution rate despitelocal health officials warning that is not the best practice.

Statistics provided by the health departmentshow the city has doled out about180,500 needles and received around 86,700. About 45 percent of participantsare returning clients and around76 percent report thatheroin is their drug of choice.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at (502) 582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com

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A look at who uses the needle exchange program.(Photo: CJ)

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Who uses the needle-exchange program.(Photo: CJ)

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