Syringe Exchange Program helps prevent diseases

Participants of the exchange were asked to take a number and wait.

Michael Brown

Participants of the exchange were asked to take a number and wait.

Yesterday was the beginning of Huntington’s syringe exchange program, which allows drug users to bring in used syringes for new ones in an effort to prevent diseases from spreading.

The exchange is located at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department at 703 Seventh Avenue.

The program received 15 patients on their first day who were looking for clean syringes or help from drug counselors.

“The community has been hugely supportive,” said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, who works with the exchange program.

The exchange is part of Mayor Steve Williams’ two-year drug plan, which focuses on rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration.

Kilkenny said that Huntington has come together looking for a way to solve the drug problem in the area and they have been receiving support from several agencies.

According to the city of Huntington’s website, Fruth’s Pharmacy has already donated 13,500 syringes to start the program.

“We can’t ask for more support than they have given us already,” Kilkenny said.

One main goal is education about disease prevention. Diseases related to drug addiction are debilitating and can be easily spread by reusing or sharing needles. Two of the people seen at the program had drug related infections.

“These are people who are used to being harassed. We treat them like everybody else. We treat them like human beings.””

— Dr. Michael Kilkenny

“These are people who are used to being harassed,” Kilkenny said. “We treat them like everybody else. We treat them like human beings.”

The exchange is part of a larger program designed to help give people hope and options other than abusing drugs. The plan would allow addicts to essentially restart their lives without drugs and try to find meaningful employment, which could give them an incentive to not relapse.

The staff was confident and focused on building trust with the patients, who they hope will return each week to continue safe practices and to look into getting help with their addictions. Three people at the program spoke with recovery coaches about leaving drugs completely.

The Health Department is hopeful that at least half of their patients will seek out a referral for treatment at a local recovery center.

Kilkenny said that he is hopeful they will receive additional funding from private philanthropy groups, which will allow the exchange to continue.

John Cole Glover can be contacted at [email protected]