HUNTINGTON – While finding discarded syringes in public places is an unnerving problem, two of West Virginia’s largest health departments are urging that the issue be viewed as a byproduct of the overall opioid epidemic rather than assigning blame to local needle exchange programs.
Those needle-exchange programs distribute hundreds of thousands of sterile syringes annually through the departments’ harm reduction programs.
A joint statement was issued Monday by Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, and Dr. Michael Brumage, executive director and health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and the Putnam County Health Department.
“Harm reduction programs, like those at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, are an integral part of the solution to the opioid epidemic,” the statement reads.
“Syringe exchange programs, which are part of harm reduction, provide sterile syringes and collect used syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood borne infections associated with the reuse by drug users of contaminated injection equipment…”