Anderson Township trustees vote against needle exchange program

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Trustees voted 2-1 Thursday night to nix a proposed needle exchange program that advocates believe would have helped reduce the spread of transmissible disease among drug users.

Needle exchanges allow drug users to trade used needles for clean ones. Opponents argue they enable drug addiction by providing users with the supplies they need to continue using, but proponents such as Anderson Township administrator Vicky Earhart have said they're a cost-saving measure.

READ: Editorial: New HIV cases are a wake-up call for more needle exchanges

"Statistics show one year of this program costs less than treating one case of HIV or four cases of hepatitis C," Earhart said in January. "Significant studies have shown that these programs do not increase drug use but, in fact, actually help to reduce blood-borne infections and diminish other health risks."

Eighteen of 37 the new HIV infections reported in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties throughout 2017 came from intravenous drug use, according to Northern Kentucky Health Department director Lynne Saddler. The year before, all four counties reported just five new infections between them.

READ: HIV: Our billion-dollar time bomb

Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newport, Kentucky, already offer exchange programs, and the World Health Organization in 2004 endorsed a needle exchange model as one that could efficiently curb the spread of transmissible diseases among drug users. So have the American Medical Association and Northern Kentucky Medical Society.

Although expansion appears unlikely in Anderson Township, officials hope to open additional needle exchange sites in western and northern Hamilton County, Clermont County and Cincinnati by the end of 2018.

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