West Virginia’s new needle exchange law concerns health officials, community

West Virginia

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK)—A new state law that will put limits on needle exchange programs is causing health officials, community members, and other organizations to be concerned.

“I’m not a fan of any type of restriction on a harm reduction program or of anything that restricts a person’s access to anything that could potentially allow for a spread,” said Newness of Life Recovery Program graduate, Carrie Chin. “Clean needles are a must.”

The law was set to go into place July 9th but is being put on hold after the ACLU West Virginia chapters filed a lawsuit saying the law is unconstitutional.

Despite the restrictions that come along with this new law, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department said it’s important that they continue their program.

“It should not be restricted or taken away from us,” said Cabell-Huntington Health Department CEO and Health Officer, Dr. Kilkenny. “The way we operate today is less than we could do.”

Kanawha County is experiencing what the CDC is saying is one of the most concerning HIV outbreaks in the U.S. and Dr. Kilkenny says making these programs less effective will increase the amount of HIV cases.

“I think it’s one of the essential tools that has to be used to stop the spread of HIV in a community,” said Dr. Kilkenny.

One founder of a sober living home said taking away resources from those in need will just make the problem worse.

“You’re refusing help to someone on a serious national threatening measure,” said Justin Ponton, founder of Newness of Life. “This is an extreme risk that will only continue to grow and increase if all we’re doing is creating obstacles and taking away resources that facilitate safety.”

Cabell-Huntington is working to keep their program but is worried that other programs near them may become less effective if the law is passed.

The federal court will be having a preliminary hearing on July 8th.

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