Politics

Louisville Metro Council members want to start a needle exchange program in the city.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently signed a bill into law aimed at tackling the state’s heroin epidemic. The bill included a provision that gives local governments the ability to create their own programs.

Metro Council member Rick Blackwell, D-12, recently announced on social media that he is sponsoring an ordinance – along with council members Marianne Butler, Bill Hollander, David James and Vicki Aubrey Welch—that would give Louisville’s local health department the go-ahead to start a needle exchange.

The ongoing HIV outbreak across the river in Indiana makes the program more urgent, Blackwell said. He said if the program is in place, it will also help the public health community get more information about the scope of the outbreak.

“You know we don’t really know a whole lot about the population,” he said. “It will give the health department the opportunity to be able to get statistics on those people and get a handle on how widespread it is.”

Blackwell said the ordinance will help the city in a couple ways. He said needle exchange programs are known to lower the rate of passage of HIV and hepatitis and that they also help public health officials get in touch with addicts who need help.

“One of the other pieces that it does is to encourage people who bring their needles in for the exchange, we have some data on those people as well as opportunities to reach out to them and hopefully get them into some programs,” Blackwell told WFPL.

Blackwell said the bill will be filed Monday and it will have its first reading on Thursday.

There could be special committee meetings scheduled to speed up the process, which is what Blackwell is hoping for. He said he wants the health department to start making plans as soon as possible.

National Director of Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli was invited by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, to talk about the state’s heroin problem at an event in Frankfort Thursday. During his visit, Botticelli touted the benefits of needle exchange programs, WLKY reported.