Kenton County’s approval of a needle exchange inches Northern Kentucky, hit the hardest by heroin, toward getting one

The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously approved a mobile needle exchange program March 29, which moves the City of Covington’s needle exchange program one step closer to fruition, Terry DeMio reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Fiscal Court’s approval was one of several conditions required by the City of Covington to allow its exchange to move forward. Covington’s plan also requires two other counties in the Northern Kentucky Health District to adopt exchanges (only Grant County has); limits access to only resident’s of the district’s four counties; and would move the exchange to St. Elizabeth Healthcare hospital.

In addition, it requires a one-for-one needle exchange and a mandate that all participants must be tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B, HIV, and, where applicable, pregnancy. This condition is likely not legal and is being investigated by the Northern Kentucky’s Health Board‘s legal counsel, DeMio reports.

Kenton County’s plan differs from Covington’s in that it mandates only the offering of these tests, DeMio reports.

Both plans will require the Kenton County Board of Health‘s approval.

Needle-exchange programs were authorized by the state anti-heroin law passed in 2015, and require both local approval and funding. They are meant to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, which are commonly spread by the sharing of needles among intravenous drug users. Northern Kentucky has been hit the hardest in the state by heroin and its hepatitis C rates have been reported at 19 times the national rate.

The needle exchange would be funded by $250,000 from the R.C. Durr Foundation, and the health department would use its staff and already available testing to further pay for the exchange, DeMio reports.

The Fiscal Court also approved exploring the idea of building a community-wide addiction treatment center on the county jail grounds; putting $25,000 toward a heroin helpline; and approved a resolution to encourage the Northern Kentucky Board of Health to create a high-quality prevention and education program for the community.

The Northern Kentucky Area Development District has already put out proposals for the heroin helpline, DeMio notes. And County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann told him that Boone and Campbell counties were willing to consider putting $25,000 each toward it, and that St. Elizabeth had promised $75,000 toward its operation.

The other needle exchanges in the state that are either operating or have been approved are in Louisville and Lexington and in the counties of Pendleton, Carter, Elliott, Franklin, Grant and Jessamine.

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