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Needle Exchange Conversation Moves to Ft. Mitchell

The Northern Kentucky Health Department's presentation on the syringe access and exchange program proposed for the region made its way to Ft. Mitchell on Monday evening. 

Dr. Lynne Saddler, director of the Northern Kentucky Health Department, is most concerned with the potential spread of viruses Hepatitis B, C, and HIV taking hold of users in the area and their long-term costs – financially and health-wise.

The medical costs incurred for a Hepatitis C patient can be upwards of $84,000 and $600,000 over a lifetime for HIV treatment, Saddler told council. Furthermore, she added that the rate of Hepatitis B patients in Northern Kentucky has risen 65 percent in the past five years and 120 percent for Hepatitis C patients in the same time frame. “We don’t want us to become a Scott County, Indiana,” she said of the small rural town that has been stricken by numerous HIV-positive residents within its population.

Saddler also discussed the Syringe Access Exchange Program (SAEP) and wanted to clarify that it is not a cure-all for the epidemic: It is “designed to address collateral damage,” in the region – the spread of disease, she concluded. Once enrolled in the SAEP, what do patients have access to? 1) Testing for HIV, Hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy. 2) Vaccinations. 3) Naloxone (overdose prevention). 4) Enrollment in health care coverage. 5) Counseling and education. 6) Other health department services and referrals to other health care providers.

“First and foremost, this program is about stopping the spread of disease in our communities,” Saddler added. “Whether or not people realize it, a significant number are a percentage of folks who are heroin users actually work. They work jobs…and so that puts businesses at risk from a worker’s comp standpoint, but also if you’re providing health insurance coverage and they are Hepatitis-positive, HIV-positive, your costs are going to go up for your employees. So we want to stop the spread of disease that’s going on in the community…We don’t want to be doing Needle Exchange forever. We want folks to get on a better pathway in life and Syringe Access Programs have been shown to do that.”

Due to the high number of those affected by this epidemic, Councilwoman Vicki Boerger asked Saddler about the feasibility of mobile units. Saddler said the health centers are more advantageous because of the availability of nurses and extra staff and they are able to properly treat a patient with the resources needed to do so, on hand nearby. “In order to make a mobile unit financially viable, we would have to really pare down the program,” she said, adding that a patient that tests positive would have to go from the mobile unit to a health center for further evaluation.

Other Notes:

An ordinance passed 6-1 in favor of the Interlocal Agreement with SD1, a “yes” vote coming from Councilmembers Mike Stoeckle, Dan Rice, Beth Rose, Boerger, Joe Hayes and Kim Nachazel, and a “no,” from Dennis Zahler. The lone councilman questioned that SD1 has had trouble living up to its previous agreements and was hesitant to agree that things would be different this time around.

By a 4-3 margin, council amended Section 32.16 of the Ordinance Code, relating to regular council meetings, as it only meets once-a-month rather than twice-a-month as it had prior. Those in favor: Nachazel, Rice, Stoeckle and Hayes; Zahler asked, “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?” regarding the former two-meeting format.

Firefighter Amy Reis was presented a fire hydrant-shaped trophy by her fellow members for her 20-plus years of service to the Fort Mitchell community.

Long-time resident Angela Lucarelli was appointed to the Board of Adjustments to fulfill Howard Anneken’s term. City Administrator Sharmili Reddy said the new appointee would “handle the city really well.”

Written by Jason Finnell, RCN contributor
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