Rand Neighbors Outraged by Proposed Needle Exchange Program

RAND, WV (WOWK) - Rand neighbors came out in force Monday night to oppose a needle exchange program coming to their community.

In a heated meeting, officials who partner with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department outlined what a program could look like, but the community believes the program would hurt their neighborhood bringing in more drugs, needles, and crime.

Emotions ran high at the Rand Community Center, neighbors frustrated with the toll drugs are taking on their town.

"Mama and man were walking from Malden and he about steps on a dirty syringe. What happens if one of these kids out here steps on it and gets Hep C?" one neighbor asked.

But that's exactly the reason health officials say a harm reduction program should come to Rand. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says about 88% of needles they give out are returned, so dirty needles aren't lying on the street.

"There's outbreaks that have occurred folks around the country. Scott County Indiana had 220 HIV cases- biggest outbreak they've had since the early 90's. If that happened in West Virginia we can't afford it," Kanawha County Communities That Care spokesman Scott Burton said. 

A representative from the Kanawha County Commission says 634,000 needles were given out in the past 3 years (since the Harm Reduction Program has been in place) and hundreds of them not returned. So the Commission isn't sure they can support more needle exchange programs.

"Picked up needles on the playground at Belle Elementary here not to long ago. Let's fix the problem with the addiction and quit enabling people by giving them clean needles," David Armstrong, Deputy Fire Coordinator of the Kanawha County Commission, told 13 News. 

"Now we're all concerned about needles and you all are passing out needles and your not getting them back and you're passing out more anyway," one Rand neighbor asked Burton. Some were concerned that drug users can get 10 needles their first time in the door, with no promise they'll bring them back.

"They have to put forth some effort on their own to clean themselves up, not just receive the needles to keep on going," Cindy Hamons argued.

Neighbors are concerned having a source of clean needles will attract more drug users and criminals to the area. So Burton said any community that doesn't want the program won't get it. But they are hoping to introduce some sort of initiative to help fight drug abuse in the area.

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