At my job, as well as the kitchen where I volunteer each week, I come into contact with addicts. Anyone who lives in WV knows that we have one of the worst problems in the nation.
I am disappointed to read about half measures concerning needle exchange programs. Logic tells us that if we have one of the worst problems, we need to follow best practices established by years of research in other states and countries. In fact, we should find ways to be even more aggressive and even more accommodating. Above all, we should be more compassionate.
As far too many good parents have learned, this is not just a problem that affects people born below the hills we live and worship on, up top where we can condescend and pretend it could never happen to our kids. Or ourselves. The truth is that many addicts start out like you and me. They get an illness and get hooked on prescriptions, then far too often slide into even worse habits when they can’t find a doctor to keep their demons at bay.
Addiction to IV drugs is a fact, and what is needed is not judgment; we need effective solutions that reduce harm and keep people safe, whether they are addicted or not. Many cities in southern WV and other places that have tried these programs often complain about issues such as needle litter, but around the city of Beckley, in parks and on McManus Trail, I see dispensers that provide plastic bags for our dogs as we walk them. It is a sad day indeed when we cannot provide the same respect for our people that we do our friends on all fours. A sharps container, as any diabetic or other patient that does regular injections for their health would know, is the most effective means of controlling biohazardous waste.
Until we implement such programs on a statewide basis, we’ll continue to see numbers of addicts and subsequent illness rise.