Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department holds town hall on harm reduction program

BUCKHANNON, W. Va. (WDTV) - The program is a syringe exchange, which means that twice a month the hospital provides a place for people to dispose of their used needles and gives them access to clean ones.

This is designed to prevent addicts from spreading diseases such as hepatitis c by using or improperly disposing of dirty needles.

Members of the community spoke both for and against the program. Those against it say that they support a program being implemented, but they want more public input to be considered.

"I think that they need to bring the community on board. I think that maybe a committee, as was addressed, just somebody to bounce ideas off of so we feel like we're part of the program, part of the decision making," says Sharla Smith, Upshur Salvation Army's Service Unit Director.

Those who spoke out about adapting the program wants to see a needle-for-needle policy implemented so that those who take needles from the hospital must return their used needles to the hospital before receiving any new ones.

Speakers also suggested other adaptations to the program such as requiring those who use it to seek counseling.

Those in favor of the current program say that stricter guidelines may deter people from using the needle-exchange.

Robin Pollini, an associate professor at WVU, has studied these types of programs for 20 years.

"I think the thing to remember is that they have to work in a certain way in order for them to be effective. So if you make it really difficult for people to get in by having a lot of rules, people won't come," says Pollini.

The Health Board held their regular meeting following the town hall and assured those in attendance that they are listening to the public's concerns.

They will also be accepting survey's from the audience with additional comments.