In a light of a spike in heroin abuse and an HIV outbreak nearby in Southern Indiana, a Louisville Metro Council committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to allow the city’s health department to create a needle exchange program.
The ordinance received bipartisan support during a special public safety committee meeting.
Three members of the Kentucky General Assembly who worked on the heroin bill approved during this year’s session also stopped by the meeting to show their support for the measure. State lawmakers passed a bill this year allowing local governments and health departments to create an exchange due to rampant heroin abuse in the state.
Locally, city government agencies also showed support for the measure. Health Department interim chief Sarah Moyer said the program would help the city in various ways and has support from across the community—including Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad.
Conrad told council members the program could help his officers. He said right now officers are getting pricked by dirty needles on the job because drug users are hiding them.
“This is absolutely a public safety and a health issue for our officers and our EMS workers as well,” he said. “So, this is a big deal to us.”
The ordinance gives the Louisville Metro Health Department the go-ahead to begin crafting an exchange program.
Once the full council approves the measure, the agency will begin working out the details, including locations, policies, procedures, cost and outreach, Moyer said.
Other counties in the state—including Lexington and Bowling Green—are expected to also create their own needle exchange program.
The Metro Council has fast-tracked this measure. The ordinance will go to a full council vote this Thursday.