Dave Peyton: Cabell’s needle exchange program should be shut down

September 16, 2018

The needle exchange program for drug users in Huntington and Cabell County: Is it worth it? Is it working the way it’s supposed to work? Does it need to be shut down?

Like most everything else in this state, it has become a political football and for good reason.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones led the charge to shut down the program in his city and has reported it cleared the city of many homeless drug addicts. He claims they have moved to Huntington, where they can get free needles in the county’s needle exchange program.

If the program worked the way it is supposed to work, it wouldn’t be so bad. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be better than it currently operates.

Drug users are supposed to go to the health department and get free clean needles which haven’t been used and therefore are free of diseases that can be passed from user to user. That, of course, is a good thing.

While there, they might talk to someone about rehab. In any event, they are supposed to use the needles and bring them back for new ones. That’s where the “exchange” comes into play.

But there are problems. When the word spread there are free needles in Huntington, homeless drug users gravitated to the city.

Last week, WSAZ went out to Huntington streets to find out why there seems to be so many more homeless people in recent weeks.

The free needle exchange program was a major reason, the homeless people said.

More homeless people means more stolen merchandise and more burglaries. More crime in general.

To make matters worse, not all needles from the exchange program are returned. Needle litter is on the rise in the city, and that is not only ugly, it’s dangerous.

We may be talking several thousand needles lying here and there all over Huntington, including Ritter Park where kids play, because of a program that is supposed to make injecting illegal drugs a little safer.

Are we being too nice? Are we making it more dangerous for ourselves because of our attempt to keep drug users from getting diseases through dirty needles?

It’s said that Huntington Mayor Steve Williams supports the needle exchange program and that’s keeping the debate to a minimum.

I have come to the conclusion there are more minuses to the program than pluses and we ought to eliminate it the way Charleston eliminated it.

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Christy Bare and her husband own Bare Arms Indoor Gun Range and restaurant in Huntington. In a column last Wednesday, I noted it seemed strange that the restaurant adjacent to the gun range served beer.

I was wrong.

“We do not serve alcohol at our range or restaurant,” she wrote in an email. “We do not have and do not have plans of ever having a liquor license. While we are not opposed to alcohol, we did not want to portray the thought to the community that we were unsafe due to alcohol and guns in the same establishment.”

My apologies, Ms. Bare. And good luck with your gun range and restaurant.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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