3 Ways Syringe Exchange Could Impact the Local Heroin Epidemic

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Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory (left) touched base with Kentucky State Police Trooper Jeremy Slinker after the two lawmen addressed a Tuesday forum about a proposed syringe exchange program.

 Last week at a forum staged in Berea by the Madison County Health Department, Berea Police Chief David Gregory addressed the merits of a proposed syringe exchange program.

Health and medical professionals at the meeting advocated the program to help prevent the spread of deadly communicable diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis C. A needle exchange could potentially prevent the spread of disease by allowing intravenous drug users to exchange their used syringes for safer, more sanitary retractable needles, which can only be used once, and which present less of a health threat if they are discarded.

Gregory said a syringe exchange program could benefit Berea in 3 ways:

• It Protects Police Officers: Dirty needles are sometimes dropped by suspects in the back of police cruisers, and officers might get stuck.  Since a needle exchange could cut down on the number of users infected with communicable diseases, officers would be at less risk of contracting a deadly infection.

 It Will Take Many Dirty Needles Off the Streets: Used Syringes are found along roadsides, parks and in places where the public can accidently come in contact with them. An exchange program gives users a reason to trade syringes in for clean ones instead of just throwing them away in places where they can do harm.

• Users Will Tell Officers If they Need Clean Needles:  This presents an opportunity to help prevent the spread of disease, but also possibly opens a dialogue with officers about seeking treatment for addiction.

The health department is urging the three local governments, Berea, Madison County and Richmond, to endorse a syringe exchange program. Chief Gregory encouraged the community to continue the discussion.

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