One year's progress: the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department's harm reduction program

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TAYLOR COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - In August 2018, 5 News went to the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department to learn more about their harm reduction program, which staff said offered more than just a needle exchange option.

"It's education, prevention, counseling, and treatment," said Shawn Thorn, Crisis Coordinator at the Grafton-Taylor County Health Dept. "The rest of the steps that go into actually getting them off of the drugs."

Now 10 months later, the program is still about prevention and awareness. To help combat the state's drug epidemic and bring awareness to their program, the health department has started holding community meetings to get ideas from residents on how to help the crisis.

"We would like to see more people come," said medical assistant Era Ford. "We had about 20 at the meeting in Flemington, and we had a meeting at the Grafton Library. So they know and they're aware of it. They see the activity out there and they want to get rid of it, it's just how."

Officials say in the past year, more and more people have come to use the program, with 14 people currently using it.

One stigma that holds people back from using the program is thinking they have to give out their information, when in actuality it's anonymous.

"You don't have to give us any information. You can just come in and say you're here for the needle exchange and that's all we need to know. We just want to help stop the diseases from coming into the community."

While the department offers multiple vaccinations, and testing for diseases like Hepatitis and STD's, they also work to clean up Taylor County by picking up needles residents may find.

"We get a lot of community calls. And it's on the rise. And it's not just one needle, it's multiple needles."

Ford says the department collects an estimated 15,000 needles a year, and that future community meetings will be posted on the department's Facebook page.