2017-08-09 / Front Page

Health board approves needle exchange

The Letcher County Board of Health has approved a needle exchange program in an attempt to curb the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.

Under state law, the local health department has to approve the program before it can be started. Supporters must now seek approval from the Letcher Fiscal Court.

Letcher County United for Substance Abuse Prevention, a nonprofit focused on reducing drug use and the associated public health risks, has been working on creating the needle exchange for more than a year. Members of USAP and employees of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, which is supportive of the effort, approached the board of health Monday night at its annual meeting.

Statistics show up to 10 percent of Letcher County residents are infected by Hep C, and the Centers for Disease Control have flagged the county as one of 57 in the state that are at high risk for the HIV outbreak due to the prevalence of intravenous drug use.

Hep C is much more contagious than HIV, the virus which cause AIDS, and can live on environmental surfaces for weeks.

USAP Chairman Eugene Slone said the program would be funded through the state Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, with no county money spent.

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