Member Login

Premium Content

Campbell Gives OK to Syringe Access Program

It was standing room only in the courthouse in Alexandria for the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting Wednesday night as needle exchange proponents and opponents waited to see what would be decided.

Jenny Woodruff spoke first, behind a picture of of her daughter who died from sepsis caused by a dirty needle.

"My daughter didn't choose to be an addict," she said amid tears. "Now I am a mother changed."

Kristie Blanchet, from People Advocating Recovery in Northern Kentucky, complimented the court on their well-organized meetings, and said that a needle exchange was a direction the county can take to help the community.

Kevin Gordon told the court that he didn't see how they could make a decision when there was such conflicting testimony. He questioned that since the medical profession helped create the problem by over-prescribing painkillers, was it wise to ask them for help in solving the problem. He also asked if people who were addicted to drugs were not making good health care decisions, why would people think they would start making good health care decisions just because clean needles were available? Gordon asked if there were going to be parameters, and questioned the constant mention of studies without referencing the study, so people could find out for themselves if the study was legitimate.

LISTEN: Heated exchange between Judge/Executive & Commissioner

The issue was presented in Campbell County as Kenton County waits for a third county in the Northern Kentucky Health District to approve a program. Per state law, a needle exchange program can only exist when both a county and municipality pass an appropriate ordinance. Kenton County Fiscal Court and the City of Covington have adopted such an ordinance - on the condition that three of the four NKY Health counties do so. Grant County and Williamstown already have a program up and running, so now the responsibility falls to either Boone or Campbell.

Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery said there were studies on the Center for Disease Control's website. He challenged Gordon's statements, saying his words were taken out of context, and he was satisfied that he had the facts.

J.R. Roth stood up to ask why things were not on the agenda. "Why are we hiding things?" he asked. As far as the needle exchange, he stated, "Are we liable if they (an addict) kill somebody's kid with the needle still in their arm?"

Eric Specht came from Ft. Thomas to speak, and told the court that he lost his son Nicholas to heroin. He said he felt like there was a stigma, a bias against people who are addicted to the drugs, and said that they deserve to have a chance to get well. He stated that the community needs this program.

Tim Nolan questioned the legality of creating a needle exchange program, citing KRS 218 A, and said it was putting police in a difficult position. He said if it was a sloppily drafted law. The needle exchange, he saide, was supposed to be a one on one exchange, not a giveaway.

Dr. Mike Kalfas spoke up about the threat of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

"We are going to have a Hep C epidemic," he stated. "It is coming. This is not going to get heroin off the streets, this will help deal with the damage heroin does."

Another resident asked the doctor if he knew that drug dealers were offering money off their drug if they could bring clean needles to the deal, and Dr. Kalfas said he didn't know that. "We all want the people to get better," he said to the room. "We just disagree on how."

John Denson said he thought they should go after the drug, saying if there was no drug there would be no need for needles. Kevin Sell said as a retired Firefighter/EMT that he knew of the risks posed by dirty needles and said the bottom line is that they need this program in the county.

In the end, it was Judge Pendery who made the motion to pass the resolution to grant consent to operate the syringe exchange program until December 31, 2018. It passed 3 to 1 with Pendery and Commissioners Tom Lampe and Brian Painter approving and Commissioner Charlie Coleman opposing.

The next step is for a city to adopt the same ordinance with Newport being the likely choice if the program is operated at the Campbell County Administration Building on Monmouth Street. Another possibility is to conduct the program at St. Elizabeth Hospital which would require approval from Ft. Thomas.

Other notes:

An ordinance amending the Animal Shelter's spay/neuter program was read for the first time. Starting now, no animal will leave the shelter without being spayed or neutered. Another ordinance was read for the first time changing the zoning on a 10 acre piece of land where old US 27 meets new US 27. There are two parcels of land involved, and they will be changed from I-1 to Highway Commercial.

Several resolutions were passed. One amends the police policy and Procedure manual, one amends the Animal Shelter operations manual, and another renews the lease agreement with Campbell County rural Knothole baseball for ten years at $1 a year.

The court passed the mental health/Intellectual disability payroll tax  allocations, as well as the senior citizen payroll tax allocations. Charlie Coleman voted no on both.

Three resolutions dealt with inspections, and came up for change due to changes passed down from the state.  One was the contract with Electrical Inspection, Inc, another was with Inspection Bureau, Inc, and a third was with interlocal agreements--Permit review and building inspection services.

At the beginning of the meeting, a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle awareness month was given to members of the Kentucky Motorcycle Association.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

Photo: Jenni Woodruff speaks to the Campbell Co. Fiscal Court (RCN)