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Needle exchange program to be implemented in Leon County

Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 17:45:28-05

LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — We're learning more about the plans to implement a needle exchange program in Leon County.

Supporters say this program will help drive more people to get treatment.

While the basis of the needle exchange program is to allow drug users to swap used needles for new ones, the goal is to eventually build enough trust to get people to want to seek help getting clean.

The hope is with more successful drug rehabilitation stories, there will come more funding for things like methadone treatment. Some argue there's not a need for such a program.

According to county documents, 45 people were admitted for substance abuse treatment. Those documents also show that from 2014 to 2018 only one HIV and 19 Hepatitis C cases were diagnosed.

Dr. Paul Arons says that data doesn't tell an accurate story.

"There are over 100 people living in Leon County that have been diagnosed with HIV as a result of sharing needles. So there's a sort of hidden population out there of additional injectors who haven't been tested, don't know their status. Haven't come forward," said Dr. Arons, the medical consultant for the Florida Department of Health's HIV/AIDS section. "So when you think about it, the people that have been identified are only a percentage of those that are actually engaged in injecting drugs."

Dr. Arons says that this project will also give the county more money to purchase Narcan and other overdose reversal drugs.

Funding will have to come from private donors and grants. When the needle exchange arrives in Leon County all depends on when the county gets enough funding to launch it.