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New law will allow health departments to provide clean needles to drug addicts

(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 30, 2017 at 4:38 PM EDT
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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed a number of bills that will become law on July 1st, many of which will work to combat the growing drug problem here in the Commonwealth.

A law going into effect will allow health departments to provide clean needles to drug addicts.

Dr. Laura Kornegay is the health director at Central Shenandoah Health District.

She said she understands this is a controversial subject, but she wants folks to know that taking dirty needles away from addicts will decrease the likelihood of them spreading disease or infection by sharing them with someone else.

"A lot of that is driven by an increase in IV heroin use. So we have concerns from a public health aspect about transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C with reuse of needles," said Dr. Kornegay.

Dr. Kornegay said she sees this as a "harm reduction strategy" since the trade-off involves the person accepting information regarding treatment options.

"The rates of hepatitis C, which can be transmitted via intravenous drug use have been increasing. We also worry about other infectious diseases that can be transmitted by intravenous drug use, including HIV and hepatitis B."

Dr. Kornegay said the encounter will also give health department staff the chance to test those who come in or point them in the right direction for substance abuse therapy.