Syringe Exchange Program

Well, I can say this… the idea of a needle exchange program in Middletown gives people strong feelings… you either understand it or you absolutely hate it with a passion. I’d like to think that we could do both at the same time.

Today’s Journal News ran the following story:

Middletown takes step toward needle exchange program

The comments on the Journal’s page are fairly vicious and range between “let them all die” to “the City is stupid.”

The latest estimate is that there are 10,000 heroin addicts in Southwest Ohio alone.  Let them all die?   I can’t and won’t be that callous.  Every one of those people is someone’s son or daughter.   We don’t just “let them all die” and shame on any of  you who would let your fellow man suffer and die without trying to help.  I hope we are a better society than that.

The key is to start moving them towards treatment and away from drug addiction and the associated crime that goes with it.

If you watched the City Council meeting Tuesday night you would have heard that Butler County is facing unprecedented outbreaks of HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis C due to drug addiction.  Year to date there are 18 new cases of Hepatitis C in the County.  Each case will require $100,000 in treatment to cure.  The addicted patients have no insurance or they are on Medicaid which means that taxpayers will be footing the bill for the $1,800,000 in treatment for just these 18 individuals.  That doesn’t include the treatment of new HIV and Syphilis patients in the county.

If you are worried about your tax dollars, then here is the math:  The syringe exchange program will cost approximately $45,000 to operate for one year.  My best guess is that I can get grants for all of the cost.  Assuming for argument’s sake that taxpayers paid for the project completely, however, if the syringe exchange program stopped 1 new case of Hepatitis C, then you’ve saved $55,000 in taxpayer dollars by not having to treat that one new case.  If you stop 10 people from being infected, you save almost $ 1million in taxpayer funds by having the van in Middletown 4 hours per week on a secluded side street.  A fairly good return on investment.  That doesn’t sound so stupid to me.

Syringe exchange programs have been demonstrated to significantly reduce discarded needles throughout the cities in which they operate.  If you don’t care if they die, perhaps you’ll be moved by not having discarded needles in our business parking lots, streets, and city parks.  That doesn’t sound so stupid to me.

Syringe exchange programs put people in contact with treatment resources and recovery options.  More and more addiction treatment is coming online each month.  If you don’t care if they die, then perhaps you’ll be moved by the fact that syringe programs help get people into treatment, which means for each person that moves to treatment from the syringe exchange program, you as a taxpayer won’t have to pay anymore  for their indigent ER overdose visits, their indigent EMS runs, or be a victim of the crimes they commit each day to support their addiction.  That doesn’t sound so stupid to me.

It is perfectly logical and ok to be outraged that we have this epidemic in Middletown, in Butler County and across the nation to deal with and that your hard earned tax dollars are being used for this purpose.  It is also ok to be angry that we have to resort to this type of project to stop larger tax dollar expenditures  to treat these diseases.

I don’t like this option.  I also don’t like spending $1.5 million of your tax payer dollars year after year in city Police, Fire, and Health Department expenses to react to the addiction instead of trying to hit it head on with all community resources.

I’m outraged at all of this.  It’s right to be outraged when you discover that the syringe exchange program is one of the best bad options we have to deal with addiction and stem the spread of disease and crime in the City. Be outraged, but do the right thing….


4 thoughts on “Syringe Exchange Program

  1. I think we’re forgetting that this segment of the population, for the most part at least, had charted their own courses in life with no regard for the consequences. The popular but annoying “whatever befalls me is society’s fault” narrative is one from which no lasting good will ever come. And when you stir in the chilling reality that this is the same lot who gleefully unleashes pain and woe to innocent people to feed their habits, make me feel that our City Manager should just cut the lights, hang the ‘closed’ sign and head home. Because this customer ain’t buyin’.


  2. Kudos to CM Adkins for his compassion, his intellect and his guts! Unfortunately one fact was incorrect, year to date there are 169 cases of Hepatitis C with 18 reported in the month of October (not year to date) with the total for Butler County is 772.
    A Health Community is a community that is aware of its ills and challenges, one that does not put its head in the sand and pretend that all is well and then proactively addresses them. I am a proud Middletown and I know that “uncomfortable” conversations help us to grow and learn. Thanks to all that are working so diligently on this epidemic.


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