Metro Louisville approves needle exchange program to combat heroin epidemic

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky's largest city has approved a needle exchange program in an effort to combat the state's heroin epidemic.

The 22-0 vote on Thursday came less than a month after a new state law allowing local governments to set up needle-exchange programs took effect. The law aimed at reducing heroin deaths also allows first responders to give Naloxone to overdose victims.

Local media reported Louisville is the first city to establish a program since the passage of the state law.

The ordinance allows the metro health department to set up a substance-abuse treatment outreach program where participants can exchange used hypodermic needles and syringes for clean ones.

"People on the council see a critical need and are getting beyond the partisanship and initial reactions to the term 'needle exchange' and are going to do the right thing," said Democratic Councilman Bill Hollander.

Interim Director of Louisville Health and Wellness Dr. Sarah Moyer said it could also give officials a better perspective on the number of heroin addicts in the city.

"I think it will give us access to that population that we don't have because we can't answer that right now," she said. "The CDC is even looking at ways to do that right now and this needle exchange will help us get that data."

Officials hope to have the program up and running by July.

"We're still working out the details but we're thinking of having one substance abuse counselor in charge of the program," Moyer said on Tuesday. "Then have them go to six different sites, six days a week. That is our tentative plan."

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