Lincoln County syringe exchange gaining traction

Published 7:23 am Thursday, December 7, 2017

STANFORD — With Kentucky leading the nation in Hepatitis C cases, Lincoln County’s syringe exchange program is working to remove “dirty” needles from streets and parks in the area.

“Our goal in this is to prevent Hepatitis C, HIV, those type of chronic diseases and any others related to those,” said Lincoln County Health Department Director Diane Miller. “That’s our number-one goal.”

Since its Aug. 1 implementation, the Lincoln County Harm Reduction Syringe Exchange Program has seen a few participants, Miller said.

“I had some concern about individuals not coming in, but when I checked with surrounding counties, they say that’s how it was for them too,” she said. “I think it’s more-or-less a trust issue and I think that once individuals realize that we’re here to help them, across the board, then I think we’ll see more participation.”

Confidentialilty is a big part of building that trust, Miller said.

“We give them a form to complete and we don’t use names or anything like that,” she said. “We just have them put a letter on the form and that’s how we call them back. We never use a name when we call them back.”

Participants are called in the regular order of the clinic when they visit and no appointments are required, she added.

“Those that we have served thus far, they seem to be just fine with it,” Miller said.

The program offers free anonymous services such as a needle exchange, HIV testing, condoms and counseling. Confidential services are also available on a sliding fee scale, including pregnancy testing, STD testing, immunizations, Hepatitis C testing and treatment referrals.

Lincoln County’s program is a one-for-one exchange, meaning participants can exchange one used syringe for one clean syringe, Miller said.

“When they come into the department, they will get their clean needles and a Sharps container for them to discard their needles in and not throw them out on the streets,” she said. “When they come back with their needles, it’s needle-for-needle, but if they don’t have dirty needles to turn in, we’ll at least give them 10 because we don’t want them walking out the door without any.”

The program is also a way for those battling with substance abuse to learn about what treatment options are available.

“We do counseling in the area of substance abuse and then we also give them a card when they leave, and it has treatment centers on it and numbers they can call for help,” Miller said.

Funding for the syringe exchange came from the local Lincoln County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.

“We’re so appreciative that our local ASAP board gave us $10,000,” Miller said.

With the local health department facing funding cuts, Miller said the ASAP donation was a big help.

The $10,000 helped fund the purchase of supplies needed to implement the syringe exchange program, including needles, alcohol swabs and sharps containers.

“The funding also allowed us to print our educational materials,” Miller said. “The state ASAP board approved us to use some of the funding to buy heavy-duty locking filing cabinets for our supplies.”

Miller said after studying programs in other areas and discussing what the local program should look like, the Lincoln County Board of Health is pleased to see it now being implemented.

“It’s whatever we can do to protect the health and safety of the public,” she said.

SO YOU KNOW

The Lincoln County Syringe Exchange Program is located at the Lincoln County Health Department, 44 Health Way, Stanford. The program is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more details or questions, call the health department at (606) 365-3106.