Ten months into the county health department's needle exchange program, 65 people have used it.

Of those, 42 are unduplicated, according to information presented Tuesday to the fiscal court by Madison County Health Department director Nancy Crewe.

The director said she expected higher numbers.

"We're still working on not only awareness of it, but trust," she said.

Crewe said she expects the program will soon see approximately 40 clients per week.

More men than women have utilized the program — 36 and 28, respectively. The program has given out more than 4,800 one-time use syringes and had more than 3,000 returned. Almost two-thirds of participants (40) were referred by family and friends.

The most popular drug of choice among participants in the program by far was heroin — 26 of the 65 said the opiate was their drug of choice on a survey. Methamphetamine followed with 14 participants choosing it as their drug of choice.

Crewe said a counselor from Bluegrass is present when the exchange is in operation in daytime hours, and several clients have sought help.

Participants are five times more likely to seek care than those who do not participate in a needle exchange program, Crewe said.

The program is necessary, Crewe said.

"These are tough times and we have to rise to the occasion," she said.

The fiscal court voted in March 2017 to approve the exchange. The cities of Richmond and Berea both voted prior to that to give their consent. State law allows exchanges only after a county’s governing body and the cities where they will operate give consent.

The exchange began operating in August.

The exchange runs Mondays from 3 to 6 p.m. at the health department's Richmond location and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the department's Berea location. A Tuesday night exchange, from 5 to 7 p.m., in Richmond is expected to be added soon.

To date, 45 needle exchange programs have been started in the state, Crewe said. The Lexington-Fayette County program sees more than 200 clients per week, she added.

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