ANDERSON – The Madison County Board of Health has voted to make changes to the county’s needle exchange program, including the removal of the contentious “cooker” included in the distributed kits.
The Board of Health on Wednesday voted unanimously to remove the cooker from the kits and to establish set hours and locations for the exchange of needles. The cooker is a small, metal bowl that is just over the size of a quarter that drugs such as heroin are cooked in before use.
Dr. Troy Abbott, president of the Board of Health, made the motion to change the program after an almost one-hour long discussion concerning the needle exchange program that has come under fire from Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings and members of the Madison County Council.
Abbott’s motion included a provision that the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agencies be informed of the set hours and locations for the exchange of needles.
“The program will be transparent this way,” Abbott said.
Board member Susan Markle said she was opposed to removing the cooker but voted in favor of the motion to modify the local needle exchange program.
“You have to get out from under the sights of some people,” Abbott said. “We need to keep the program under the radar."
“The cooker makes sense but the cops don’t like it,” he said.
Stephanie Grimes, who oversees the program for the Madison County Health Department, said the cooker is the problem.
“It’s an important piece,” she said. “People may use separate needles but are using the same cooker. We modeled our kit after Scott County, which followed a recommendation by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).”
The program in Madison County was approved by the state in 2015 in an effort to reduce the number of Hepatitis C and HIV cases in the county.