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What to Expect from Louisville's Needle Exchange Program

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The plan for Louisville's forthcoming needle exchange is taking form, with potential details such as the budget and times of operation being put on paper for consideration by city leaders.

The draft of the reportoutlines the department's goal of reducing the transmission of blood-borne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, among people who inject drugs and to protect their sexual partners.

Details of the Louisville Metro Department of  Public Health's needle exchange program will be presented Wednesday to a Metro Council committee.

The report doesn't give an exact start date for the needle exchange program but shows a budget from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016.

The total expense for the program is $224,900, which includes $50,000 for syringes and $60,500 for a substance abuse counselor, according to the draft report.

The program will operate Monday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the health department located at 400 E Gray St. in downtown Louisvile, the draft report said.

Participants will receive syringes, HIV testing and prevention supplies, referrals for health and social services, and education about Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases.

If a person tests positive for HIV, health department staff will link the participant to the case manager at the University of Louisville's 550 clinic, an HIV treatment center.

An addictions treatment case manager will be assigned to the needle exchange program by Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center. This contact will make treatment referrals for participants seeking information about rehab.

People seeking naloxone, an overdose prevention drug, will be referred to the Louisville Metro Harm Reduction Taskforce.

The needle exchange program will also aim to find people "where they are" through outreach efforts.

Volunteers of America will provide street-level outreach in various parts of the city to promote and extend the reach of services, according to the draft report.

The Louisville needle exchange program became an option for local officials this year via legislation approved in the state legislature this year to address Kentucky's growing heroin problem.

Louisville Metro Council approved the needle exchange program in April and the Louisville Metro Board of Health voted its support for the program in May.

Needle exchanges have been a hot topic in the Louisville area in recent months. This spring, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declaring a public health emergency because of the HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana, which is about 30 miles north of Louisville. The state began a 30-day needle exchange program April 4 to contain the spread of the virus.

That needle exchange program has since been extended through May 24, 2016. So, far 21,697 needles have been provided to 175 people. The number of HIV cases is now 166.

In a previous WFPL report, medical director for the Louisville health department Dr. Sarah Moyer said the potential for the outbreak to spread south to Louisville is a concern.

“We haven’t seen the rise in the numbers yet, but we’re looking for it. We’re trying to get things like this needle exchange set up to prevent it from happening here,” she said.