Some success, but still more work to do in fight against heroin addiction

11/09/2015 03:49 PM

FRANKFORT – While there have been some successes in the battle against heroin addiction, there is still work to be done was the message from officials to members of the SB 192 Implementation Oversight Committee on Monday.

One controversial part of the bill was the needle-exchange program, where addicts bring in used needles to a designated location and exchange them for clean ones.

To date, three exchanges are currently up and running one in Louisville, Lexington, and Pendleton County.

The Louisville Metro Syringe Program has had 1,102 participants with 42 percent returning needles according to Louisville Public Health and Wellness statistics. 133 people have been tested for HIV, 65 for Hepatitis C, and 64 were referred to drug treatment.

In Fayette County, 104 people were served from Sept. 4 – Oct. 30, 2015 with 52 return visits. 2,104 needles were collected and 1,976 dispensed.

Meanwhile, in Pendleton County, the program has been up since Sept. with no participants.

Georgia Heise, Public Health Director of the Three Rivers District Health Department, said that false messages on social media scared individuals from participating.

“Initially, I think we got some bad press — social media and the like, that in Pendleton County, possibly there would be police officers lying in wait, so when you came out of the health department, you might meet a bad situation there,” Heise said.

Scott Lockhard, Director of the Kentucky Health Departments Association, and the Clark County health director, feels that the progress of the needle exchange program has been successful, especially in Jefferson and Fayette County, and believes that local regulation will be the key to its continued and growing success.

“They’ve really accessed what’s going on their community and they have moved at the pace that they have felt best,” Lockhard said.

Another area the anti-heroin bill covered is adding treatment beds within the Department of Corrections.

To date, the department has added 106 drug treatment beds at jails and 25 treatment beds in prison for a total of 3,621 beds. However, 1,312 inmates are waiting for treatment beds in prison while 771 are waiting for beds in jails.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, says that while there have been some good results from SB 192 thus far, there is still work to done.

“We’re still seeing a lot of folks newly becoming addicted to opiates, and turning to heroin,” Jenkins said. “We have lots of work to do in the treatment arena.”


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