Henderson Co. leaders eye needle exchange program

Health leaders pitch possible program to fiscal court

HENDERSON, KY (WFIE) - A proven practice to cut down on the spread of HIV and blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C may be coming to western Kentucky.

Health leaders met with the Henderson County fiscal court Tuesday morning to talk about a possible syringe exchange program.

Right now there are 49 programs like this across the state. Kentucky is one of the nation’s leaders. And after the meeting, it’s likely the number will rise.

But first, the county and city have to give the green light.

Clay Horton, the Public Health Director for the Green River Area District Health Department made the presentation to fiscal court.

“I see these programs as a one step for an individual to try to make an improvement in their life,” Horton explained.

Kentucky ranks number one for acute Hep C in the US.

Estimates show the cost of treating the disease is $50,000-$80,000 a year.

Ensuring confidentiality was one of the concerns county leaders questioned.

“We deal with a lot of delicate situations; we deal with a lot of confidential and private matters already,” Horton added.

Studies show the syringe exchange program participants are five times more likely to enter into treatment than those who have never used an exchange.

“So every time a client would come in and utilize services, there would be a conversation, we’ll be able to offer additional services, like counseling for HIV or testing for HIV,” Horton said.

These programs are shown to also be cost effective. It’s estimated for every dollar spent, up to seven dollars are saved in the HIV treatment cost alone.

Research explains 54 Kentucky counties have increased vulnerability to a rapid HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs .

“If the person can travel to that county, so can the infectious disease,” Horton told 14 News.

If approved, some grant money could help the program get off the ground, but most of the money would come out of the public health budget.

The nearest program like this in western Kentucky is in Muhlenberg County.

There’s no word on when Henderson County leaders plan to revisit the topic.

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