UPDATE: Portsmouth Ohio Needle Exchange Program Gets Big City Attention

By: Sarah Sager Email
By: Sarah Sager Email

UPDATE 6/5/13 @ 6:44 p.m.
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Portsmouth Health Department's needle exchange program is getting the attention of big cities in the Buckeye State.

"We've gotten interest from Cincinnati, Dayton and suburban Detroit," said Lisa Roberts with the Portsmouth City Health Department. "Now that they're being hit with it, they're suddenly really realizing that it's a very major, serious problem. They're turning to us and asking us for help."

Roberts says the program has numbers to back up its success. Since the needle exchange program's been in place, Hepititis C cases in Scioto County have dropped in half. Overall, drug overdose deaths are down 30 percent.

"It's nice to see Scioto County at the forefront," Roberts said. "Knowing that we can help addicts stay safer, it's just a win-win for everyone."

UPDATE 4/07/11 @ 11:05 p.m.
PORTSMOUTH, Oh. (WSAZ) -- In only a months time seven people have safely disposed of used needles, in exchange for clean ones in Portsmouth.

Its progress program coordinator Bobbie Bratchett didn't expect for six months.

In the past week one person donated at least 100 needles they had saved up over a month.

"She said if she did not have this program she was reuse those needles over and over," said Bratchett.

All seven people who have come to exchange needles had something in common.

"I thought it would be heroin, but no. It’s oxi. That is what we have here in our county is oxi. That's pretty much what the population is doing,” said Bratchett.

Most of the seven people we're between 35 and 40 years of age.

"I was very surprised. I thought they would be much younger. It really tells you we either have an older population that's been in it for a long time or a population that's gotten into it due to chronic pain," said Bratchett.

A few weeks ago, Portsmouth resident Hugh Greene, found two needles lying on the side of his road.

"It was kind of a shocker to see it right in front of my house. I've seen needles before in parks and other places, but right in front of my house it was kind of hurtful to see that," said Greene.

Now Hugh is working with Bratchett to get needles off the streets.

"We've got to take initiative as citizens and do our part by picking up needles, looking for needles. That's how I found out how to take care of needles," said Greene.

In two weeks, Hugh removed ten needles.

For Bratchett it's the start of some success.

"They come in and they really look like both of us. If you we're out in a crowd you wouldn't pick them out," said Bratchett.

The effort is not going to further an addiction, but to keep everyone safe.

Scioto County has a 23 percent positive rate for Hepatitis C.

It leads the state of Ohio for people who have the disease.

The needle exchange program is run entirely through donation.

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- It's an everyday problem HIV Specialist Bobbie Bratchett, who's with the Portsmouth Health Department, hopes will come to an end.

“An anonymous user said, 'I never thought I would find something I love more than my kids, but obviously I have.' He was in tears and said, 'Obviously I have.' That's not a unique story. That's an everyday story," Bratchett said.

However, Bratchett isn’t wasting time hoping. She’s heading out into the community to do something.

She's started a new needle exchange program in Portsmouth named: Prevention not Permission.

"Our goal is, if someone will bring us five used syringes, we'll give them five clean syringes. So we hope, as the word grows, that we'll get more of those and get them off the street," Bratchett said.

Scioto County currently has the highest percentage of people with Hepatitis C in the state of Ohio.

Recovering drug addict David Hufferd knows the problem well.

"If I'd have known about it, I wouldn't have used the same needle over and over, and I wouldn't have ended up with Hepatitis," Hufferd said.

Now, needles and drugs are not a part of Hufferd's life, but he still understands the consequences.

"I can still think like an addict. I'm still an addict, and I know that you would rather spend your money on something else than have to buy a new needle or worry about using somebody else's need who may not have Hepatitis. They might have AIDS and not be telling you or not know,” Hufferd said.

Hufferd is now trying to get his life back on track.

"I lost my wife about 14 months ago to an addiction. Since then, I've been trying to get my children back. I've been trying to get a better way of life," Hufferd said.

Prevention not Permission is only the second of its kind in Ohio.

Several other cities in Ohio and West Virginia are looking into a needle exchange program.

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