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Lexington Prepares to Institute Needle Exchange Program


The Lexington Council is endorsing a needle exchange program. The initiative is a part of a new state law aimed at lowering diseases related to heroin use, including Hepatitis and HIV. Fayette County Health Commissioner Rice Leach brought the plan before city leaders Tuesday.  He says participants must bring in a needle to receive a clean one.  "If you bring in one, you only get one” said Leach. “You're doing a little bit about the disease prevention, but not as much as you could otherwise.  I think this thing will settle out over time, but the main thing I want you to know is if you come in with nothing, you're gonna go out with nothing."

Leach says the needle exchange program will operate out of the health department at the corner of Newtown Pike and Louden Avenue.  Public Safety Commissioner Ronnie Bastin is hopeful that a needle exchange program will lower the risk of potential needle sticks to police.  "If folks are actually participating in the program, they'll have a card to show they are doing that,” said Bastin. “They're not afraid to show it because they're actually participating in a program and so hopefully, it will have an effect, a positive effect of reducing the amount of sticks."

Council member Angela Evans says it's important that needle exchange participants know they will not be at risk of arrest later on.  "Cause that's what this is about, not spreading disease further,” said Evans.  “So, make sure that they understand and that we know that this is not gonna be used against them somewhere down the road."

Leach says Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of Hepatitis B and C.  He hopes to see the needle exchange program operational by Labor Day.?

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