Later this year, Madison County will join about 15 other Kentucky communities that offer needle or syringe exchanges. The county’s fiscal court gave unanimous approval Tuesday morning.
Like most of the state, Madison County has seen alarming increases in the number of Hepatitis C infections caused by sharing of dirty needles by drug users.
The County’s Board of Health held two informational meetings earlier this year in Richmond and Berea before considering the resolution to establish the program.
Health Department Public Information Officer Jim Thacker says the syringe exchange will be operated out of a mobile unit, starting out one day each week, "It will be four hours in Berea, probably in the morning and four hours in Richmond in the afternoon of the same day.”
He says, in addition to reducing the chance of HIV and Hepatitis C infections, it will help get discarded needles out of the community, “With the one-use syringes that we’re going to use, once they’re used, the needle retracts up into the barrel of the syringe and it can’t be used again. You can’t stick yourself with it."
Thacker says the mobile approach was chosen since the health department’s Richmond location is next door to a kindergarten. The Madison County program is expected to be operating by late spring or early summer, providing one-for-one exchanges for syringes and testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.