A program that offers free needles to people who use IV drugs could be coming to Beckley, as a way to help combat the opioid epidemic and prevent the outbreak of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. The announcement was made at a community forum on Tuesday. Several solutions to combating these issues were discussed, including increasing the number of police officers in Beckley.
The event was hosted by Beckley ARH Hospital and Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a not-for-profit health system in southern West Virginia.
Director of operations at Jan-Care ambulance, Paul Seamann, spoke about how the opioid epidemic is affecting emergency responders. Jan-Care responds to over 100,000 calls across for help per year, many of them overdose-related. He said if there were a place to send them, more people might find long term recovery.
Many speakers discussed disease threats, like potential HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks. Data compiled by the CDC indicate several counties in southern WV are extremely vulnerable to such outbreaks. Other cities across West Virginia have programs sometimes called Needle Exchanges that help address that threat. Studies show needle exchanges often also help patients into recovery. No such clinics exist today in southern WV.
But that could soon change. Officials from Raleigh County Health Department announced during the meeting the agency is in the process of being approved to pursue a Comprehensive Harm Reduction Program – one that could include a needle exchange.