BECKLEY, W.Va. — The Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department hopes a new component of an already-successful harm reduction program will further enhance community health.

Administrator Candace Hurd detailed the steps of their harm reduction program on MetroNews affiliate WJLS’s “Radio Roundtable” Friday. She said community awareness is a problem and wants more people to know about the services available to them.

“I think it’s important for the community to realize that when we see people that need help, that we’re offering services to them for treatment.”

A large part of the department’s program is offering contraceptive services. Hurd said another problem in West Virginia is the large percentage of babies that are born drug dependent due to the mother’s substance abuse.

“It’s probably not the best time to bring a child into a household when someone is using substances. So it’s important to be able to offer those services and also be able to offer testing for things like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.”

In January, the Beckley-Raleigh County Board of Health approved the inclusion of a new needle-exchange program as a part of their services. The health department is now taking time to research other programs on options for running theirs.

“When you look at what’s going on in the media right now with other areas, it’s a great learning opportunity for us. They’ve gone out ahead and they’ve tried to put a program into place and then you see what does work and doesn’t work. It’s a good time to step back for a small period of time and say okay, what really did the community good?”

The program would allow participants to exchange used needles for clean, sanitary needles. One of the biggest issues with starting a needle exchange program is community misconceptions, according to Hurd.

“If we give someone ten needles, they have to bring ten back. We’re not gonna just let someone continue to put needles out into the community and put other people at risk for contracting an infection.”

A specific timeline for the program’s launch has not yet been determined.

“We’re not going to be able to do hundreds and hundreds of people everyday. If we do a small, core group of 20 or 30 people, we really want to take the time to do a good quality service for them.”

The department also offers Naloxone kits and training for anyone interested. You can learn more about their harm reduction program or volunteering by visiting their website.

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