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Needle Program in Grant County Showing Positive Results

New numbers released Wednesday show positive results at the Grant County syringe access program operated by the Northern Kentucky Health Department's Grant County Health Center in Williamstown.

Since March, 2016 when the program started, 322 people have used it. The health department said that the program helps prevent infectious diseases spread through intravenous drug use, such as hepatitis C and HIV. Both of those diseases have seen an increase in cases in Northern Kentucky, primarily in Kenton and Campbell Counties.

“The syringe access exchange program in Grant County is an excellent example of the important work of public health to prevent disease,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “The program has not only provided individuals who have substance use disorders with access to sterile needles and syringes to prevent sharing of used equipment, but it has also served as a connection to substance use treatment programs, with 163 referrals made, and lifesaving overdose reversal kits, with 54 documented lives saved. Those numbers truly show the value of syringe exchange—helping to keep individuals alive and providing a path to treatment and recovery while reducing the spread of disease in our communities.”

Grant County’s program is one of 37 syringe access exchange programs operating in Kentucky. State law requires approval from the Board of Health as well as the city and county in which such a program operates.

Recently passed resolutions in Northern Kentucky will allow for the operation of syringe access exchange programs in Covington and Newport via a mobile unit at nearby St. Elizabeth Hospital campuses. Planning is underway for these programs, with the opening slated for summer 2018.

Prevention of hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease, is one key benefit of syringe access exchange programs. Cases of hepatitis C continued to rise in Northern Kentucky in 2017, with provisional data showing a total of 1,404 cases of acute and non-acute hepatitis C reported to the Health Department. This is an 8.4 percent increase from 2016, when 1,295 cases were reported.

The Grant County syringe access exchange program, and the programs being planned in Kenton and Campbell Counties, are supported in part through a grant from the R.C. Durr Foundation.

“Syringe access exchange programs are just one aspect of the response to our region’s opioid epidemic,” said Saddler. “Additional efforts around substance abuse prevention and treatment can also help to reduce the devastating impacts of IV drug use in our community.”

-Staff report

Image via Wiki Commons