MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Middletown could have its needle exchange program up and running by the start of next year, after the city's health board approved the program.
Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips said the Tri-State's heroin problem can't be solved overnight, but the needle exchange program is intended to stop the spread of disease.
"They are not getting free needles. They get an exchange -- one dirty needle, one clean needle. Two dirty needles, two clean needles," Phillips said.
Butler County has seen a spike in Hepatitis C, Phillips said, which is why she views the needle exchange as an important public health program.
The program is expected to cost $45,000 a year, Phillips said, and the plan is to have local agencies that deal with drug abuse cover the expense.
Cincinnati already has a needle exchange program, so Middletown could use its mobile unit a few hours a week. Phillips said it would be in a location that's both high-traffic and discreet.
"It is not condoning drug use, just like we don't condone overeating or we don't condone misuse of any type of poor behavior," Phillips said. "However, if you are going to do something, we want you to be as safe and healthy when you are doing it."
Not everyone agrees with the health board's decision.
"I think that's probably one of the dumbest things I have ever heard," Rebekah Routson said. "It's just a way of enabling addicts who already have a problem. It's like giving a kid a piece of candy and saying 'Don't eat it.' You don't hand people something to do it with. They need programs, they need recovery, they need jail, they need sobriety, they don't need needles."
Phillips said the community will be able to weigh in on the needle exchange proposal before it is set in stone.
IN-DEPTH COVERAGE: Heroin epidemic in the Tri-State