In a collaborative effort with the Owensboro City Commission, the Daviess County Fiscal Court approved a motion creating a Syringe Access Exchange Program (SEP) through the Green River District Health Department.
The project won’t go into full effect until city commissioners vote on the program on Dec. 18, but if everything goes according to plan, Daviess County will be the newest city in Kentucky to establish a SEP that will give people who inject drugs (PWID) a safe, judgement-free place to obtain clean needles. According to the county commission, this will reduce the spread of diseases that are associated with PWIDs.
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly is also the chair of the Daviess County Health Board, and he said Daviess County isn’t implementing the program due to extraordinarily high numbers of PWIDs in the area, but to have the resources necessary should a surge in intravenous drug use occur.
Currently, there are 49 existing SEPs across the state. According to the commission, only three SEPs exist west of Louisville.
“Not because they were quicker than us, but because there was more of a need there,” Mattingly said. “While we still have a relatively low instance here, we want to get ahead of the curve.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said those who inject drugs are able to “substantially reduce their risk of getting and transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood-borne infections by using a sterile needle and syringe for every injection.”
The CDC also explains that SEPs provide access for PWIDs to sterile needles and syringes free of cost. The community-based programs that foster SEPs also facilitate safe disposal of used needles and syringes to prevent the spread of diseases even further.
County Commissioner Charlie Castlen added that the SEPs will allow residents a safe, judgement-free place to ask for help, even assisting them in going to a rehabilitation facility, if desired.
At the county commission meeting, it was declared that while the SEPs take off rather slow in the beginning, they do a lot of good for the communities in which they’re established, especially in lowering the numbers of HIV and hepatitis A and B. At the Daviess County SEP, testing for the aforementioned diseases will be available to those who seek it.
“The primary reason we’re doing this is to stop the spread of infectious diseases,” Mattingly said.
If the city commission votes in approval of the SEP at the Green River District Health Department, the program is expected to be up and running as soon as possible.