The demand for syringe exchanges crosses county lines; if local governments haven’t allowed one in a county where intravenous drug users live, some of them go to a county that does have one. For example, most clients of the exchange in Adair County (population 19,485) are from Taylor County (population 25,472).
Sharon Burton of the Adair County Community Voicereported those figures after getting them from the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, which operates exchanges in Adair, Russell, Pulaski and McCreary counties, where local officials have authorized them.
The headline on her story said “Syringe program shows dire drug epidemic,” and a front-page graphic showed how often IV drug users say they inject.
Pulaski County, with an estimated population of 65,000, currently has 447 participants, or 0.69 percent of its residents. McCreary has 191, or 1.1 percent of its population of 17,465. Taylor has 181, or 0.71 percent. Russell with 151, or 0.85 percent of its population of 17,775. Only 76 are from Adair, 0.39 percent of its population. “Others come from Casey, Green and other counties not listed,” Burton reports.
“Of the people participating in the program in Adair County, 178 are from Taylor County (58.6 percent) while only 64 (21.1 percent) are from Adair County,” Burton reports. In Adair, “294 different people have participated in the program a total of 985 times since the program began in September 2017. . . . A total of 43,040 syringes have been dispensed and 29,065 collected. Participants are not required to bring in syringes on their first visit but are expected to bring them in during subsequent visits.”
Tracy Aaron, the district’s director of health education, “said the program has been very effective for several reasons,” Burton reports. “It is reducing the spread of disease and people are reporting fewer needles in parks and on the streets, she noted. The program also connects participants to volunteer peer counselors, people who have successfully completed treatment themselves. In addition, the health district’s staff provides participants with information about treatment and counseling programs.”
Aaron told the Community Voice, “To see those individuals, and to know they have trust and that someone cares about them, this is really an opportunity for those individuals.”
|Health dept. chart shows exchange participants by month in Adair County|
“Since its inception starting first in Russell County in June 2017, a total of 1,037 participants have visited 4,311 times,” Burton reports. “A total of 173,383 syringes have been dispensed and 129,286 collected. The most highly used drug is methamphetamine, with 751 participants reporting they used it. The second most highly used was suboxone, used by 394 clients. A total of 315 participants reported using heroin.”
Burton adds, “Of 1,135 clients in the district who self-reported, a total of 420 participants (37 percent) reported injecting drugs at least nine times a daily. Another 339 reported using six to eight times daily and 270 reported using at least three to five times daily. A total of 317 clients reported testing positive for Hepatitis C,” which is prevalent among IV drug users.
Monthly reports on the district’s syringe exchanges are available online.