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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: About that Anti-Needle Exchange Column...

I read with great interest Senator John Schickel’s opinion of clean needle exchange. As a conservative, he feels that the role of government in public health is a mixed bag of good and bad results. Into his argument he throws everything but the kitchen sink! To hear him tell it, the extermination of the Jews, the threat to take away our precious guns and the legal right of a woman to choose are all done in the name of “public health”. Senator Schickel uses this argument against the public health rationale for clean needle exchange. 

But, the need to protect our public is real and there is more good than bad in clean needle exchange! Don’t take my word for it, read Tyler Owen’s argument for clean needle exchange and note the truth about this program as a protectant of public health and more!  

“The Argument for Clean Needle Exchange in Kentucky” 

A heroin epidemic currently scorns not only our nation as a whole but also the state of Kentucky in particular. Overdose deaths pepper the headlines of local papers, but there is also a collection of various sinister problems that have accumulated as well including crime associated with perpetuating an individual’s supply, the destruction of families, the mental and physical health of addicts, and the growing outbreak of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is being spread through the exchange of used needles. HIV may soon follow this path when it is introduced into the intravenous drug using community. It is imperative that the recently state-legalized clean needle exchange programs are implemented throughout Kentucky to combat the heroin epidemic and the many issues it brings with it. The primary benefit of clean needle exchange programs is the limitation of intravenous diseases. This benefits the entire population, not just the intravenous drug use community. Per the Northern Kentucky Health Department there are currently 9.5 out of every one hundred thousand people in Northern Kentucky who are infected with hepatitis C. The statewide average is three people for every hundred thousand. The nationwide average is only one person per hundred thousand. The NKHD has also reported that in their area of coverage (Boone, Grant, Kenton, and Campbell counties) that the reported number of cases has grown by more than eighty percent since 2010, with 23 cases reported in that year compared to 55 in 2013.  

There is no question that this disease is becoming a prominent presence in both Northern Kentucky and the state at large. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through the use of needles that were previously exposed to infected blood.  This means the increase in cases is in direct correlation to the increase in heroin use.  Clean needle exchange programs remove these infected needles from the street and replace them with clean ones that do not spread diseases. As previously stated, this is the primary goal and benefit of clean needle exchange. If implemented now, a massive spread of HIV can be prevented. The scale of the hepatitis C spread has been seen.  An HIV epidemic along that same path is something that must be avoided at all costs for the obvious reasons of its lethal and costly impact on individuals and communities.

Another secondary benefit to clean needle exchange is the protection of our first responders. One of the more prominent ways to contract hepatitis C is through accidental sticks by infected needles. Emergency services and law enforcement responding to overdose calls are at greater risk for this to occur. The scenes that overdose victims are commonly found in may include a large amount of used needles, making it a dangerous scenario for any person attempting to administer life-saving treatment. Clean needle exchange programs will hopefully cut down on the number of excess needles at these scenes as they require them to be turned in to receive new, clean needles. 

Clean needle exchange is a necessity in Kentucky’s fight against heroin. It will level off and eventually decrease the amount of reported hepatitis C cases and prevent a similar outbreak of HIV. The increased exposure to treatment options and the protection of first responders are also added benefits. The benefits greatly outweigh the limited costs associated with the programs and it is a must that local governments start to implement these programs that the state legislature legalized in the bill passed earlier this year.

Thank you Tyler Owen, I could not have said it better! This is not a conservative vs liberal, Republican vs Democrat fight. This is not about the Holocaust, the second amendment or abortion! This is about public health. We as NKY can do something about it!

It is past time to implement clean needle exchange!

The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.