Louisville needle exchange program questioned by state lawmakers

06/26/2015 03:10 PM

FRANKFORT – Questions continue to be raised about the legality of Louisville’s needle exchange program which provides drug abusers clean needles from health department officials.

Louisville health department officials reported during the first week of the program, 1,352 clean needles were distributed while 189 needles were collected.

Many GOP leaders, including Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, are concerned that not having a one-for-one exchange may incent drug abuse, and may not be legal under Senate Bill 192, the state’s anti-heroin law.

Louisville health officials say the entire process will take time, and they feel that more used needles will come as trust is developed between the users and health department officials.

During the SB 192 Implementation Oversight Committee meeting on Friday, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, expressed concerns over the ramifications of it not being a clear one-on-one needle exchange.

“You can make the argument if there isn’t actually an exchange of a dirty needle for a clean needle, and you’re just giving clean needles, in some respects I think it does cross the line between promoting or enabling more than an exchange would,” Westerfield said.

Sadiqa Reynolds, chief of community building for the city of Louisville, feels that more used needles will be brought back in time.

“As we grow this program, we’ll see more and more of the exchange,” Reynolds said.

Co-chair Rep. Denver Butler, D-Louisville, has visited the needle distribution point and says that the program will evolve in time to more an “exchange”, after the health department employees form close bonds with the users.

“They have to develop relationships from the ground up,” Butler said.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, shared Westerfield’s concerns about the program possibly contributing to more dirty needles out in public than ever before.

“Let’s say there’s 5,000 needles in a community, and none are brought in, but you distribute 2,000, now I have 7,000 needles in this community,” McDaniel said. “I don’t recall ever hearing about a distribution. This was always a needle-exchange.”

Butler felt that SB 192 gave communities the local-option to adopt a needle-exchange program that would be effective in their own areas.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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