Boyle syringe exchange has distributed more than 4,000

Published 8:07 am Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The syringe exchange program in Danville-Boyle County started Jan. 13 in the basement of the health department from 1-3 p.m.

Since it began the syringe exchange program in January, the Boyle County Health Department has handed out 4,493 syringes and taken in about 2,396 syringes, said Health Department Director Brent Blevins.

He explained that the difference in numbers come from the first visit — patients can receive up to 30 on their first visit without turning any in.

“We do get a lot who bring 30 with them when they come back,” Blevins said. Most bring 20-30 needles back with them.

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“Most are getting used to, ‘I’ve got to bring needles back in,’” he said.

Patients report the number one drug they are using is heroin, while meth is a close second.

“We get a few suboxone, but not a ton,” he said.

Some will simply say opiates.

There’s been one definite way to determine a positive outcome, Blevins said: whether or not they come back.

“Do they trust us enough to come back? That’s a good indicator we’re having some success, because if they trust us, they see us as a place where they can get some help and can get needles or they see us as someone to talk to,” Blevins said.

He said making the syringe exchange a regular part of the clinic has made it easier for people to take part. Eventually, if it becomes necessary, Blevins believes the program could expand.

“We’re providing a service and encouraging people to come use it,” he said.

When someone visits to exchange their syringes, they also talk to a nurse for a few minutes. It helps the Health Department know about the people it’s treating, while still keeping it confidential. It also helps them share information about treatment options for those interested in getting help.

Blevins said they also talk about Hepatitis C, and getting patients to talk about it is a big deal. Some know they have it and will admit that. Others think they might have it, but don’t know.

“It’s amazing the number that are scared to be tested,” Blevins said.

He said people begin talking more to the staff at the Health Department as they make the return visits and begin opening up about themselves.

“They start telling us those stories and become more comfortable — we hope that leads to more being tested and treated,” Blevins said.

Some of the patients who bring in syringes are getting treatment in Lexington for Hep C.

“That’s huge,” he said.

Lately, there have been a lot of first-time visitors and the repeat patients have moved on. Blevins said sometimes that has to do with the fact that many drug users tend to move a lot.

“Just because they were in Boyle County a month ago, doesn’t mean they’re in Boyle County now,” he said.

But he hopes it’s a sign of something else.

“I’m hoping people are getting help and not using,” he said.


Mercer County was the first to open a syringe exchange program in the area in July 2016; Boyle and Lincoln were second and third, respectively, in January 2017 of this year.