Hit Hard by Opioid Crisis, Appalachian States Expand Clean-Needle Programs

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

Latest Prevention & Wellness News

FRIDAY, May 11, 2018 (HealthDay News) — In 2013, there was just one clean-needle program in all of West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina, and the latter two states had laws banning such programs.

Fast-forward four years: All of those laws have now been overturned and the number of “syringe services programs” available to help addicts has risen to over 50 across the three states, researchers report.

Clean-needle programs are exactly what’s needed, experts say, with Appalachia now an epicenter of the opioid addiction crisis ravaging the United States.

The free programs “have increased in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia with support from government officials, community advocates and health care professionals,” according to a team led by Dr. Danae Bixler. She’s an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s a big turnaround in just a few years. But one expert pointed out that the programs do far more than help addicts avoid dirty needles and related infection with HIV, hepatitis C and other dangerous diseases.

“These programs also represent a significant opportunity to improve access to care for this underserved and at-risk population,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician who’s seen the ravages of opioid addiction firsthand.

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