Louisville to launch needle exchange program June 10

Louisville to launch needle exchange program June 10

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville will become the first city in Kentucky to launch a needle exchange when the Derby City's program begins June 10.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, the interim director of Metro Public Health and Wellness, said there would be only one permanent location for the exchange instead of six, as she had originally hoped.

[RELATED: Facts about needle exchanges and Hepatitis C]

"We ran into a few barriers that were preventing us from getting it set up as quickly as we wanted in those six spaces, so we're starting with just one site, and hopefully over time we'll build that up," Moyer told reporters after explaining the program to Metro Council's Public Safety Committee.

[RELATED: Metro Council Democrats file needle exchange ordinance]

The location outside the health department's building at 400 E. Gray Street will offer HIV and Hepatitis C testing. In addition to the permanent site, volunteers will distribute needles throughout the community and encourage people to visit the Gray Street location.

Legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear allowed local needle exchanges.

Metro Council approved the program last month, directing Metro Public Health officials to set up and operate the exchange.

"I know a lot of people think at first glance that this is not a good program, but it does protect our health care workers, our first responders, our police," said Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, a Republican who represents District 18.

The program's budget is $224,000 for the next fiscal year, although that could increase because the level of participation is unknown, Moyer said.

The budget includes $60,500 for a substance abuse counselor and $50,000 for needles. The program will distribute a weekly supply of needles to each participant, who will receive the equivalent of four needles per day.

The permanent location will be inside a large truck at the health department's East Gray Street building. The truck won't move from the site, Moyer said.

The site will operate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Health department officials plan to hold a media tour Tuesday, the day before the needle exchange opens.

Louisville has experienced 57 drug overdose deaths since the start of the year, Moyer said. Most heroin users in Louisville are 18 to 25 year old white men, she said.

"We have room to grow if need be," Moyer said. "Our goal is to get as many clean needles on the street as possible."

Participants must give their initials, birth year and zip code to program administrators, but will not be required to provide their full names, birth dates or addresses.

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