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Western Kentucky Counties Consider Needle Exchanges

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Health experts in western Kentucky are considering a needle exchange program to curb the spread of H-I-V and Hepatitis C. 

Kentucky lawmakers voted in 2015 to give health departments the authority to set up the exchanges amid the state's heroin epidemic.

The exchanges would let any IV drug users anonymously swap out dirty needles for clean ones. 

"Kentucky is the number one state in the nation with high Hepatitis C rates and we want to protect our citizens from the spread of these diseases," remarks Public Health Director Deborah Fillman at the Green River District Health Department.  "It's not enabling a drug user.  It's about getting resources for these folks such as available treatment options."

Fillman has been taking some cues from Louisville, the first city in the state to implement a needle exchange program, but she says the exchanges would be tailored to best meet the needs of western Kentucky. 

The Green River District Health Department serves Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, and Webster counties.  Upon approval from the district’s board of health, it would be up to local cities and counties to decide whether to create needle exchanges.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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