Board mulls needle exchange program
The Woodford County Board of Health's quarterly meeting Thursday, June 23, featured a discussion about the controversial needle exchange program some counties have already adopted. Al Cross and Melissa Patrick of the Kentucky Health News blog spoke in favor of the program, but the board is likely months away from serious consideration of a local plan, which must be approved by Woodford Fiscal Court and the Versailles City Council. The following day, Cross, who runs the Midway Messenger blog and is a teacher at the University of Kentucky, told The Sun that participants in needle exchange programs are five times more likely to seek treatment for drug addiction. Interim Woodford County Health Department Director Garland VanZant said board members were split on the benefits of a needle exchange program. Some were concerned about a "negative public attitude" about exchanging clean needles for used ones, as most of those doing so are intravenous drug users. Others were aware of data showing that programs have cut the rates of HIV and Hepatitis C related to shared needles. Asked his opinion on the program, VanZant said he was speaking for himself, not the Board of Health. "I think it's a good idea because of the fact that it cuts down on other ancillary costs and it keeps people well. It's bad enough that they're on drugs, but we need to address that, in a sense, as a separate issue, because the needle exchange program really doesn't deal with the fact that they're drug users. It does increase their likelihood . of seeking intervention to get off drugs," VanZant said. Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle told The Sun that he supports the idea of providing clean needles in order to prevent the spread of diseases. "I think we need to learn more about it and make sure the Health Department and the ASAP (Alcohol Substance Abuse Prevention) Board is aware of it, and the local governments are on board to see what's appropriate for here," Coyle said. The date of the next Board of Health meeting has not been set.