CINCINNATI -- The United States' heroin epidemic is a multi-headed beast with many contributing causes and no single silver-bullet solution.
But a year-old program in Grant County is doing its part to fight one of the epidemic's deadly effects: The spread of diseases through intravenous needle use.
"Primarily we're concerned with Hepatitis and HIV" being spread by drug users who might share or re-use needles, according to Stephanie Vogel of the Northern Kentucky Health Department.
That's why the Grant County Syringe Access Exchange Program allows opioid users to trade in dirty used needles for clean ones.
"We have a conversation with folks to see how much they're injecting and how much (equipment) we need to provide to them," Vogel said. "It's to make sure folks are using one needle per injection and not sharing."
More than 180 people have participated since the program started, according to Vogel.
Reducing the spread of disease among drug users isn't the only positive outcome of the program, said Dr. Jennifer Mooney of the Cincinnati Health Department. When users have a safe place to dispose of needles, they aren't throwing them away in the community where other people might stumble across them.
"(The program) reduces 27,000 needles that could otherwise be left out there in the community," she said.