Lexington-Fayette Health Dept. expanding needle exchange

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- The drug epidemic is having such a big impact on Kentucky, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department has expanded its needle exchange to a second day a week.

This is the first week drug users will officially have another chance to get clean needles during the week.

With expansion usually comes excitement, but Kevin Hall with the Lexington-Fayette County health department calls this expansion a sad success.

“We’re not going out and releasing balloons and breaking open bottles to celebrate this,” Hall said.

The department is expanding its needle exchange program for injecting drug users to two days a week: Wednesday 3-6 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

“The sad truth is it’s very much a necessity in central Kentucky,” Hall said.

Hall says right now about 175 people use the exchange on Fridays, which is close to capacity.

Adding a second day will also be more convenient for many of the people who use the program.

“The more hours we provide, the more services we provide, the better we are at fighting this and providing options for people,” Hall said.

Of course, there are several people who don’t support needle exchanges at all. Hall says you can tell just by looking at the comments on the department’s Facebook page.

They include statements like: “…it seems we are giving them clean needles to kill themselves,” and “need to be helping diabetic patients.”

“We ask people to not look at it as the needles. It’s the sharing of the needles,” Hall explained.

He says the program tries to prevent a Hep C or HIV outbreak.

He adds there are other programs for diabetics plus the exchange doesn’t just give needles. There is also testing and counseling.

“It’s very personalized. We talk to everyone who comes through,” Hall said.

Hall says since April 2016 128 people have been refereed to counseling and recovery programs.

“It’s an amazing statistic,” Hall said.

Chief Clinical Officer for Bluegrass.org Don Rogers hopes to increase that stat.

“There seems to be an unlimited need for these kinds of services,” Rogers said.

The Bluegrass.org Quick Response Team will be at the exchange on Wednesdays with on-site referrals to recovery programs.

“Anything we can do to make the encouragement true, genuine encouragement that meets that individual where they are,” Rogers said.

It’s a partnership all involved hope will one day take the exchange from sad success to obsolete.

The health department also distributes free Narcan during some of the exchange hours. It also has a training planned for April 30th.

Learn more about Bluegrass.org’s recovery options here. 

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