Middletown still operating needle exchange program after loss of truck due to coronavirus

Middletown has been forced to alter its needle exchange program because of changes its partners made in response to the coronavirus.

The city formerly used a truck in a partnership with Hamilton County to operate the program next to a building in the 400 block of Crawford Street. Because Hamilton County has moved to an appointment system and the truck is not available, Middletown sets up a tent in the same location to continue operating.

Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips said the change in operations came at the end of March. She said Middletown has partnered with Hamilton County and the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services for nearly five years to operate the local needle exchange with the truck.

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She said Access Counseling Services is taking the place of Hamilton County Health Department in the Regional Exchange Project which also includes BCMHARS in the partnership.

The needle exchange is at the same location on Crawford Street from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays.

For 2020, Middletown has budgeted $55,000, according to Shelby Quinlivan, city spokeswoman.

In 2019, $52,129 was budgeted for the Middletown program, according to city officials.

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“We want to make sure this will go on,” she said.

During the stop on Tuesday, the team saw 34 people who received 1,435 clean syringes and traded 850 dirty syringes, Phillips said.

The team distributed 21 boxes of Narcan, 39 hygiene kits, 50 wound care kits, 22 feminine hygiene kits, 15 safe sex kits and 22 face masks. There were three referrals for additional assistance and information provided about the COVID-19 coronavirus and availability of treatment beds.

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Phillips said that “these things still need to be done and we need to try to do at the least the bare minimum.”

A second needle exchange site in Butler County that was part of the Hamilton County outreach program is also closed.

“(The) Fairfield site temporarily discontinued due to (the coronavirus). It should be back up at some point,” said Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer.

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