Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bardstown newspaper's editorial criticizes one-for-one mandate for state-funded syringe exchanges

New syringes with clean needles
State and local officials need to get politics out of public health when it comes to establishing and funding syringe exchanges for intravenous drug users, The Kentucky Standard of Bardstown said in an editorial Sunday.

"Once again, politics has ruled over expert recommendations," the thrice-weekly paper said in an editorial about the state's rule for syringe exchanges it funds: after the first visit, one clean needed for every used one turned in. Nelson County officials starting an exchange told the Standard that they favored the rule.

"According to health experts, these conditions are not optimal for the intended purpose of the program, which is to reduce needle sharing and slow the spread of disease," the editorial notes. "But in Frankfort, many times, politics trumps the experts, and this is one of those cases. Politicians fear the perception that they will be supporting legislation that enables drug users and is morally wrong."

Another sort of public perception, the stigma of drug use, figures into the issue. "Health officials caution that not all addicts will visit the needle-exchange facility for fear of being recognized, so they warn that if you only allow a one-for-one exchange, the addicts who come in aren't going to share dirty needles," the newspaper says. "It really is defeating the true intent of the program, which is reducing the spread of disease. And that comes not only from needle sharing, but from discarded needles, the editorial notes, before defending syringe exchanges in general.

"Research shows that these types of programs, when allowed to operate effectively, don't increase drug activity but do keep diseases from spreading. They also allow for free and confidential testing for hepatitis C and HIV, which can, in turn, help addicts obtain earlier treatment for the diseases and help build awareness." (Read more)

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