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Doctor Urges Newport to Allow Needle Exchange

A local physician addressed the Newport city commission on Monday night, urging the government to allow a needle exchange to operate in the city.

"There were 18 new cases of HIV in Campbell and Kenton counties alone in 2017," Dr. James Schack said. "That is up from five cases in Kenton, Boone, Campbell, and Grant counties in 2016."

Schack's remarks follow the announcement from the Northern Kentucky Health Department about what is being called an HIV cluster in the region, something the organization had warned was possible without better access to clean needles for intravenous drug users. Though the Northern Kentucky Health District has one syringe access program operating in Williamstown, there isn't one in either Kenton or Campbell County. Kenton County and the City of Covington have approved such a program, but with one of several conditions being that either Boone or Campbell County, and a city within them, also approve it.

Eighteen months have passed since Kenton County and the City of Covington approved the necessary legislation and while Campbell County has given its blessing, no Campbell County city has.

The health department has called for a syringe access program to operate at its offices in the Campbell County Fiscal Court building in Newport.

Schack told Newport leaders that cannot sit idle any longer as the HIV cases climb along with the rate of hepatitis C infections, which he said is eleven times the national average.

"I am imploring you to take action," said Dr. Schack. "Don't let Campbell County become the next Scott County (Indiana)." Scott Co., Indiana suffered a significant outbreak of HIV infections and became a national news story.

Mayor Jerry Peluso thanked Schack for coming to express his feelings on the subject. Peluso said that the city commission would discuss the issue at its caucus meeting on February 12.

Other notes:

Monmouth Street's sidewalks will be improved. The city tapped TMS Construction to work on the stamped concrete paver replacement project. City Manager Tom Fromme said that pavers between Third and Eleventh Streets have shown excessive deterioration but that full replacement would be cost-prohibitive. Instead, the city will gradually replace the pavers with stamped concrete.

The city first discussed stamped concrete as an option in May of last year. It needed state approval before beginning.

Mayor Peluso handed out three Cannoli Awards to local businesses that participated in the holiday decoration program, including The Think Shop for best window display, Dickey's Glass for best dressed bear (the animatronic bears are from the old Pogue's department store in Cincinnati and are used along Monmouth at the holidays now), and Drugs Don't Work for overall display.

Fire Chief Bill Darin announced Robert L. Hug as the newest firefighter/EMT and the promotion of Michael Goodridge to the position of engineer/medic.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor