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Controversial Needle Exchange Before Charleston City Council

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) - In the past several weeks the Charleston police department has sent out photos in press releases, documenting the thousands of needles being tossed on city streets, found at crime scenes, or even left inside of businesses. The Mayor says most of them come from the Kanahwa-Charleston Health departments free needle exchange program.

"Well, this program has been a disaster. There's been almost a quarter of a million needles, left behind. Dirty needles, that have been left on the streets of the city... And following the people who get the needles, are people that sell them illegal drugs," said Mayor Danny Jones, City of Charleston.

The Mayor wants City Council to declare such needles illegal. But the health department maintains clean needles help prevent disease.

"It needs to keep going because there is a great possibility of an HIV outbreak or continued Hepatitis-C outbreaks that can really bankrupt, morally and financially, bankrupt an areas," said John Law, Kanahwa-Charleston Health Dept.

Two weeks ago the health department changed it's policies, meaning addicts had to present ID's and could only get needles for themselves, and no one else.

"We listened to the community and responded to that," said John Law, of the Health Department.

The mayor says the Health Department's locations is a real problem. It's right across the street from the Civic Center under renovation; the town center mall; and the region's largest hotel. He wants the needle program gone.

"Get our fingerprints off this thing. And also the future of Charleston is at stake here," said Mayor Danny Jones.

The City Council vote could be close.

"Certainly what the Charleston City Council does, only applies to the City of Charleston. But as the state's largest city, it's sets an example and could influence what happens in other communities. In Charleston, I'm Mark Curtis 13 News Working for You," said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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