Kentucky legislators are considering adopting a needle-exchange program, in an effort to reduce the spread of hepatitis C among injection drug users. The nearby city of Portsmouth, Ohio, has had some success with a similar program, USA Today reports.
In 2012, Portsmouth began a weekly syringe exchange in response to high rates of hepatitis C among people injecting heroin. The exchange program gives out an average of 5,000 clean needles monthly. The program is funded by donations, the article notes. According to public health officials, the program has helped reduce hepatitis C. People served by the program have received treatment, testing and counseling, which they might not otherwise seek, officials say.
Portsmouth Health Commissioner Chris Smith said the program has had some successes, but also faces obstacles. Between 2011 and 2012, the hepatitis C rate decreased from 309 per 100,000 in Scioto County, Ohio, where Portsmouth is located, to 171 per 100,000. The state average is 32 per 100,000. Roberts said almost half of the exchange’s clients have agreed to seek addiction treatment, although many eventually relapse.