Three use Boyle syringe exchange program on first day

Published 6:09 pm Saturday, January 14, 2017

The syringe exchange program at the Boyle County Health Department opened on Friday and saw three people come through the program on the first day. 

Health department director Brent Blevins said he was pleased with this number considering it their first day of the program. 

“We think it will take a while for word of mouth and for people to trust us, and that’s OK,” Blevins said. “We hope as people come in … they’ve had a good experience and can tell everybody else, ‘hey, go down there and talk to them, they’ll do their best to help you.’” 

Blevins said there are a number of Boyle County residents who attend the syringe exchange program in Mercer County. 

Surrounding counties with syringe exchange programs will tell Boyle County residents that the syringe exchange program has started in their county and will try to direct them to their own county, he said. Either way, they won’t be turned away. 

After about eight months of preparations, Blevins said he’s glad the exchange is now open. 

“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m glad it’s here, and I’m glad we’re at the point where can start serving people,” he said. 

The Boyle County syringe exchange program has been organized according to what the health department has seen and heard from surrounding counties, Blevins said. But besides taking ideas and concepts from other counties, he said they are open to hearing from those who utilize the program. 

“Our ultimate goal is to help them in any way we can,” he said. 

Blevins said participants can exchange one used syringe for one clean syringe, up to a certain amount. 

“The purpose of this is to try to get the needles off the street,” he said. “And while we’re here, to also have the ability to talk to them — if they want to — about treatment, about further help they could seek and to see if they are interested in testing for HIV or Hepatitis C.” 

If a participant tests positive for a disease, Blevins said they will be directed to where they can receive the appropriate treatment. 

“That’s part of our goal here, too, is to do this for public health,” he said. 

Besides exchanging syringes, those who come to the program will be able to receive other items that will help them. 

“If they are going to continue to use, then we may be able to supply them with a little bit of bleach, so at least if they are gonna use, maybe they’ll try to clean the needle,” Blevins said. “We prefer they get a clean needle, but if not, this might help some.” 

Another item that can be picked up from the program is a container to store syringes. 

“We will provide for them a secure container that they can put needles in and bring to us in a secure way so they’re not carrying them in their hands or carrying them in their pockets, but in a secure method to reduce the potential for needle sticks,” he said. 

The health department will also distribute wound care kits. 

“If they are actively injecting and they need some basic supplies to take care of those wounds when they are injecting, then we will give them some materials to help with that like alcohol pads and things like that,” he said. “The idea is to try to help them reduce the risk of an infection as much as we can help them. Ultimately, if they were able to stop using heroin, or whatever the drug was, that would be great for them, their family and the community.”

SO YOU KNOW 

The Boyle County syringe exchange program is completely confidential. The program does not ask for anyone’s name or personal information. The health department will not turn anyone into the authorities. The program is a safe and confidential environment, Blevins said.