Whitley County will likely soon be joining a growing list of communities in Kentucky offering a needle exchange program.
The Whitley County Board of Health unanimously voted last month to begin the process of starting a clean needle exchange program in Whitley County provided that adequate funding can be obtained. Federal law prohibits federal funds from being used to establish or operate needle exchange programs.
“The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shown drastic improvement in the prevalence of Hepatitis and HIV in communities that have clean needle exchange programs,” Whitley County Public Health Director Martha Steele said in an e-mail to several community leaders Tuesday afternoon.
She added that Kentucky is currently number one in the nation in terms of rates for Hepatitis C infections, which is a number one ranking the state would like to change.
The plan still requires the approval of all governing bodies in Whitley County.
A meeting for community leaders about the proposed needle exchange program has been scheduled for April 18 at the Whitley County Health Department in Williamsburg.
In 2015, as part of a measure to combat heroin addiction problems, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a new law allowing local communities to establish a needle exchange program. Several communities have established or voted to establish needle exchange programs since then, including: Lexington, Louisville, Jessamine County, Grant County, Nicholasville and just last month Knox County.