The coordinator of a needle exchange program in Bowling Green is hoping other southern Kentucky counties will start similar efforts.
The Barren River District Health Department started the anonymous needle exchange program nine months ago in hopes of combating the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis-C.
From January 2014 to April 2016, the region saw more than 600 cases of Hepatitis-C. The health department’s Public Health Services Coordinator, Chip Krause, says it’s too early to know if the district has seen a decrease in the spread of disease, but he says those who use the needle exchange program are five times more likely to enter a treatment program.
“We have seen several people have cut back and that have even had clean drug tests that have been able to start the process to start reconnecting with their family and children,” Krause said.
Krause hopes other counties in the region will adopt similar needle exchange efforts. Drug users can exchange needles at the Barren River District Health Department on Thursdays from noon to 4:00pm. Krause says the department hopes to expand the programs hours soon.
Ongoing Battle Against Opioid Overdoses
The Bowling Green-based health group is also hoping to soon expand its naloxone training program. Naloxone is a medication that helps prevent overdose deaths from opioids, such as heroin.
The Barren River District Health Department is currently training first responders, nurses, and several southern Kentucky school districts such as Bowling Green Independent, Barren, Butler, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, and Simpson counties in how to administer the life-saving drug.
Krause says the health department wants to also provide training to family and friends of those suffering from addiction. “We have had discussions, hopefully we’ll be able to get something up by July and get this into the hands of as many people as possible because those like I said are the ones who are going to be able to use the program.”
Naloxone is usually given to overdose patients through a nasal spray. A prescription is needed to get the drug, and people are required to take a two-hour class to help them learn the signs of an overdose. A dose of Naloxone can cost over 80 dollars.
Krause says the Barren River District Health Department is working on getting the drug at a reduced cost for family and friends of opioid users.