The Johnson County Health Department is continuing to seek the implementation of a needle exchange in Johnson County as a means to stem the tide of discarded syringes in the community and to help ease those with intravenous drug abuse issues into treatment, according to JCHD Director Julie Bush.
“With the new (fiscal court) administration coming in, with the new judge-executive and two new commissioners out of the three, the health department’s stance is that we’re still advocating and promoting it,” Bush said. “We’re still continuing to try and get it passed through the fiscal court … we’re talking to them and educating them and we’re planning some community outreach as well.”
According to Bush, conversations are ongoing and representatives from the health department have already broached the subject with newly-elected Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie, alongside commissioners Mike Jarrell, Tim Salyer and Kathy Adams.
Bush said the proposal had already passed the city council in July 2017 and the board of health in Oct. 2016, and was presented to the fiscal court in July of 2017. Previous Judge-Executive R.T. “Tucker” Daniel had voiced concerns with the program and requested that Bush organize a community forum to gauge public opinion on the proposal — a forum that never came to fruition during last year’s election cycle. Bush and her colleagues let the issue lie at the time, stating that it wasn’t likely a controversial program like this would be passed during an election cycle.
“It’s a public health issue,” Bush said. “We’re going to focus on getting the needles out of the community. It’s a one-to-one program, so there’s not going to be any more needles introduced to the community, but we’re going to be focusing on treatment and recovery, too. (Program participants) really are five times more likely if they participate in an exchange to get to treatment … I just hope people are going to be open-minded about it.”
Bush said the health department is hopeful and that the program is still being proposed, with the fiscal court remaining as the final step to be passed before implementation of a program could become a reality.
McKenzie could not be reached for comment as of presstime Tuesday.