Sarah Thacker: An Overview of the Needle Exchange Program in Huntington, WV.

13 Aug

Is this program actually being effective in reducing drug abuse in Huntington?

sarah thacker

Sarah Thacker is a professional, free-lance writer with a versatile writing style.  Free State Patriot welcomes her youthful, energetic style and versatility to our blog as a regular contributor.



If you spend much time walking around Huntington, chances are you’ve seen the new state flower: the hypodermic needle. They pop up in the grass, on sidewalks, in alleys, and in massive heaps in parks. I’ve personally even seen them in the middle of the road, making me wonder how that even happened.

It’s becoming a problem, with children being stabbed by them while playing in public parks and working-class pedestrians stepping on them while walking home from work. Even though it’s become public knowledge through documentaries on national news networks and popular video streaming platforms that Huntington is one of the most drug-addled cities in the United states, there are no documentaries that show where the needles come from.

A lot of people would, understandably, assume that most drug addicts wouldn’t have the money to buy needles. Stereotypically, drug addicts spend their money on their drugs, and when their money is spent, they steal from other people to fund their addiction. So, what do they do when they have their drugs, but not the needles to do the drugs with? That’s a problem that the city and county officials took it upon themselves to solve.

Shortly after Huntington was dubbed the overdose capital of the nation, city officials and the Health Department created a “Harm Reduction Program”, which is colloquially referred to as the “needle exchange program”. It’s goal is to give drug addicts clean needles and supplies so that they aren’t tempted to share needles with other users and spread blood borne illnesses and diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV. There are, what I consider, some outrageous oversights regarding this program.

First, an addict can walk in, and for a nominal fee, receive a handy hype kit. It includes everything that they need to do drugs, except the drugs. Secondly, the term “exchange” is used far too loosely regarding this program. It’s not a 1-for-1 exchange system. If they pay the fee, they can walk in and get more needles without ever bringing any back.

This causes a lot of problems for those of us who live and work in Huntington. It seems that the officials are enabling drug addicts and the drug problem, literally handing them the supplies they need to do drugs and overdose. And then taxpayers must pay for the harm reduction program and the emergency services to help the addicts when they overdose. As of right now, taxpayers are literally paying to keep drug addicts alive, and no one really asked us our opinion about that. And because the program doesn’t use a true 1-for-1 exchange, addicts are leaving needles wherever they’re using, which seems to be in mostly public places.

There are those that argue that without the harm reduction program, disease will run rampant throughout the population. But, it seems to me that most illnesses associated with drug use are blood borne, not airborne. This means that they’re not super contagious. All one should have to do to not catch a blood borne illness from a needle- drug user is to avoid exchanging bodily fluids with them, which seems like a good rule of thumb, in general.

Should we end the exchange program? Probably. But we’ll need to have a solid game plan in effect to combat the drug use, crime and homelessness that drug use and addiction brings with it, and that’s a topic for another article.


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