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Potential needle exchange in Anderson Twp. will attempt to aid fight against epidemic

Needle exchange in Anderson Township attempts to aid fight against opioid epidemic (WKRC)

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKRC) - A typical Cincinnati suburb, which tends to embrace conservative values, is talking about doing something usually associated with inner-city neighborhoods: A needle exchange.

If Anderson Township approves a needle exchange, and that's just an “if” right now, it would work basically the same way the site in Mt. Auburn works.

One day a week, a van shows up and heroin addicts exchange used needles for new ones and can get suggestions on treatment.

The mobile exchanges are politically acceptable in the city, but what about in the burbs?

Anderson Township, a slice of USA “suburbia,” has swing sets in the park, American flags on houses and lately, sadly, heroin.

“It's here. It's everywhere,” said one resident of Anderson Township.

Evidence of heroin’s impact can be found on Route 52. There’s a ghost bike that honors a cyclist named William Rust, who was killed by a heroin-impaired driver.

The same month as that accident, May, the Hamilton County Health Department made a presentation to Anderson Township officials, asking at least for consideration of a mobile needle exchange in the township.

The whole idea behind needle exchanges, if they are done properly, is first of all to reduce the spread of diseases like Hepatitis C, because clean needles are given out.

But even larger than that, it's a contact point for addicts. They are at least talking to someone who says you should get help, you can get help, here's where.

If Anderson Township does get a needle exchange, the mobile van would likely park in a commercial area with no houses. Possibly Kellogg Avenue near Five Mile Road.

To get reaction, Local 12 and Jeff Hirsh picked a random Anderson Township street and found cautious support, as well as doubt.

“It's probably needed but it makes me wonder if we are enabling the addicts instead of getting them the help they need. Are we making it easier to continue in their current life style?” said one resident of Anderson Township.

“If we do a needle exchange what else is going to be there for those who want to get right. There has to be other answers. It can't just be supplying and helping you down the gutter. We have to turn it around,” said another resident of Anderson Township.

Township trustee Andrew Pappas promises public hearings before any decision is made. There is not a timetable yet, but it could take months.

“If we can provide a service which not only provides a safe disposal for used needles but also provides a contact for those who wish to seek treatment, I think we have to look into that,” said Pappas.

Besides the site in Mt. Auburn, there are also needle exchanges in Northside, Walnut Hills, Middletown and Grant and Pendleton Counties in Kentucky.

Besides talking with Anderson Township leaders, the Hamilton County Health Department also approached Colerain Township.

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