New W.Va. legislation could force some counties to end needle exchange programs

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OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF)

The new rules enacted by the most recent state legislative session will impose stricter regulations—and higher price tags—on already stretched health departments.

Now they will have to pay for a $500 permit and licensing fee every year.

They will be required to furnish needles that are unique—unlike any others.

And the person receiving the needle can no longer be anonymous—they must show proof of ID.

Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble says these and other parts of the new law could force some counties to shut down programs that save people from HIV and Hepatitis.

“One person who doesn’t have to go through HIV treatments is tremendous,” said Gamble. “And there’s a cost savings to the public because that individual may not be able to afford the treatments but they need to be covered. Or you have a fatality, which can never be measured in dollars. So a very simple program can have tremendous public health benefit.”

He also said health departments will now have to get approval from their city council, county commission or both.

He said he feels the new rules are challenging and unnecessary.

He said the health department board has a few months to study it and reach a decision on whether they can comply with the new rules or they must shut down their successful existing needle exchange program.

The new legislation takes effect in July.

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