New mobile needle exchange launches in Northern Kentucky

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Northern Kentucky's second syringe exchange unit will soon open as part of efforts to stop or slow down some of the side effects of the opioid epidemic.

The new mobile needle exchange will operate one afternoon a week in Newport and one in Covington. There's also a similar program in Grant County.

The primary goal of the Syringe Access Exchange Program is to stop the spread of hepatitis C and HIV in the area, according to Stephanie Vogel, the director of population health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

"We are seeing more folks that are identifying injecting drug use as a risk factor for how they became infected with HIV," she said.

In the needle exchange program, people bring in the used needles to receive clean ones. That helps ensure the dirty needles aren't tossed out in public places, according to Dr. Lynn Saddler, the district director of health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. They don't have to provide their names. Officials said 60-second HIV testing and Narcan overdose kits will be available, as well as resources to connect users with treatment.

"When we find people who are infected, we can contact them to care for their hepatitis C and their HIV, and that will also stop the spread," Saddler said.

The Grant County program has sent more than 100 people to treatment and distributed more than 400 Narcan kits.

"We know that this is one way we can reach a population," Vogel said. "We can help them with prevention measures."

The mobile needle exchange will be parked from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays in the back parking lot of the St. Elizabeth Physicians urgent care in Newport and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays at St. Elizabeth Covington. 

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