Comment | Benefits of needle exchange programs

Hospitalizations and deaths due to heroin overdoses are on the rise in Kentucky.

According to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, the number of Kentuckians hospitalized for heroin overdoses more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. In addition, deaths from heroin overdoses among Kentucky residents have skyrocketed from 12 in 2008 to 215 in 2013. Kentucky also has some of the highest rates of drug overdoses and acute hepatitis C infection in the nation.

This year, the General Assembly enacted and Gov. Beshear signed into law permissive legislation that enables local jurisdictions to establish needle exchange programs (NEP), also known as “harm reduction programs.” To some, a needle exchange may sound like a program that helps intravenous drug users feed their habit. To the contrary, the intent of an NEP is to protect public health and create a path for heroin users to get treatment while preventing the spread of diseases through the sharing of needles.


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