WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. -- In an effort to stop the spread of hepatitis C in Northern Kentucky, Grant County has started a new syringe access exchange program with a start date still to be decided.
The Grant County Fiscal Court approved the new exchange program on Monday. Williamstown, Kentucky, has already approved operation of the program within city limits.
“This is not the solution to our heroin epidemic in Northern Kentucky, this is one of the critical strategies that are being worked on to try to deal with the issue," said Dr. Lynne Saddler, Director of Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. "This deals with what I call the collateral damage of the heroin epidemic. “
Boone, Grant, Campbell and Kenton counties also have hepatitis C testing centers at respective Northern Kentucky Health Department clinics.
Hepatitis C in Northern Kentucky is at one of the highest rates nationwide; the Northern Kentucky region has a case rate of 10.9 cases per every 100,000 population, which is almost 20 times higher than the national average.
Last week, residents of Independence, Ky., voted to support a needle exchange program to combat the region's heroin abuse and to prevent an HIV outbreak. But no plans exist to bring a needle exchange program to Independence.
"The needle exchange program, that's simply a maintenance issue. That's putting out buckets because your roof is leaking," Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman said in response to the vote. "The buckets will not stop the roof from leaking, but at least you can try to reduce some of the damage from it."
In October, Pendleton County, Kentucky, started a needle exchange program but saw no clients for its first two months.
The Butler County Health Department approved plans for a needle exchange program in Middletown in November. At the time, officials said a needle exchange could come to Middletown in early 2016.
Scott County, Indiana, made national headlines last spring when Governor Mike Pence approved the creation of a CDC-sanctioned needle exchange program to combat the spread of HIV in the rural Southeastern Indiana county.
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