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Kenton, Campbell Needle Exchange/Syringe Access Program Sets Opening

The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) will begin operating a mobile syringe access exchange program in Campbell County and Kenton County beginning the week of July 23.

The program’s mobile unit, provided by the Kentucky Fire Commission, will be parked at St. Elizabeth locations in Newport and Covington. Health Department nurses will provide sterile equipment in exchange for used equipment, naloxone overdose reversal kits, rapid HIV tests and referrals for other health care services including substance abuse treatment.

The schedule will be as follows:

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Urgent Care Newport/Ft. Thomas (1400 N. Grand Ave.)
1 – 4 p.m. Tuesdays (first day of operation: July 24)

St. Elizabeth Healthcare – Covington (1500 James Simpson Jr. Way)
1 – 4 p.m. Thursdays (first day of operation: July 26)

The public can tour the mobile unit at open houses scheduled from 2 – 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17 (Newport location) and Thursday, July 19 (Covington location).

The Kentucky Fire Commission has partnered with NKY Health to provide the mobile command center to serve as the program’s mobile unit at both locations.

The goal of syringe access exchange programs is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by eliminating the sharing of used needles and syringes that occurs with intravenous drug use. Individuals who use IV drugs will receive sterile needles and syringes when they turn in used equipment. This helps remove contaminated needles and syringes from being improperly discarded in the community.

“Syringe access exchange programs in Newport and Covington are important steps forward in helping us stop the spread of infections such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health at NKY Health. “We are grateful to St. Elizabeth and to the Kentucky Fire Commission for partnering with us on this urgent public health matter. Their generosity means that those in need of these important and often life-saving services will have easier access to our syringe access exchange program.” 

“We are committed to doing everything we can to help reduce the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases in our community,” said Garren Colvin, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “We have seen tremendous success in the Grant County syringe exchange program, and we know firsthand that these programs work. With the addition of these two new mobile unit programs, and with our community’s combined efforts to manage disease, we will be able to reduce the number of individuals who contract infectious diseases, and we will help our community overcome its fears and anxieties about critical health programs such as these.”

“We are proud that our mobile command center can provide such a needed service in our community,” said Ronnie Day, Executive Director of the Kentucky Fire Commission. “These efforts are right in line with our mission to enhance the safety and education of our citizens.”

NKY Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kentucky Department for Public Health to investigate an unusually high number of HIV cases among people with IV drug use as a risk factor in Campbell and Kenton counties. Northern Kentucky also continues to have some of the highest rates of hepatitis C in the country.

The Newport and Covington programs will be two of more than 40 syringe access exchange programs operating in Kentucky. NKY Health also operates a comprehensive syringe access exchange program at its Grant County Health Center in Williamstown, Kentucky, now in its third year.

State law requires approval from the Board of Health as well as the city and county in which such a program operates. The Newport Board of Commissioners authorized the syringe access exchange program in February, while Campbell County approved it in 2016. Covington and Kenton County governments also authorized the program in 2016, however operation could not begin until the program was operational in two other Northern Kentucky counties.

The syringe access exchange programs in Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties are supported in part through a start-up grant from the RC Durr Foundation.

-Staff report

Image via Wiki Commons