Fiscal court backs out of needle exchange program

Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:46 am

The Clinton County Fiscal Court held a special call meeting on Friday, March 23, with only one item on the agenda, Health Department Needle Exchange.

The Needle Exchange program was introduced and approved on a trial basis during a regular scheduled meeting Thursday, March 15.

In a story published in last week’s edition of the NEWS, three of the six magistrates voted not to accept the program, including Ricky Craig, Mickey Riddle and Pattie Guinn.

During the March 15 meeting, Craig said according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) statistics, 13 percent of Clinton Countians were diabetic and noted that those people, who have to use needles in most cases to control their disease, are not eligible for free syringes in most cases.

“It’s (syringe exchange) like promoting drug use,” Craig said.

Riddle agreed with Craig and thought this wasn’t the right program to implement in the county.

Following a presentation by members of the local and district health department and others that presented the positive aspects of a needle exchange, the court voted to enter into the needle exchange program, on a 4-3 vote with magistrates Johnny Russell, Hershell Key and Terry Buster voting yea, with Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong breaking the tie with his yea vote.

The NEWS, with plans to do a more in-depth article on the issue, met with Armstrong and others who had favored entering into the needle exchange program

Plans had also been made to meet with and interview the three magistrates who had opposed the program, Craig, Riddle and Guinn last Friday afternoon, March 23.

During that meeting on Tuesday, March 30, Clinton County Judge Executive Richard Armstrong wanted to clarify what the program’s function was. He said it was for disease prevention.

“It’s not about giving drug addicts more needles,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong went on to explain that several dirty needles have been found at Mountain View Park in the past and this program would have hopefully helped to keep those needles from being discarded in a public area.

“They (needles) are everywhere,” Armstrong said. “Folks have even found one in the hallway of the courthouse. It’s not the good people we will get needles from, it’s the bad people we are trying to target on this.”

Armstrong said his conscience wouldn’t allow him not to pass on the program.

“If one kid got stuck then I would have to live with that,” Armstrong said.

The interview Tuesday morning included judge/executive Armstrong, magistrates Johnny Russell and Terry Buster, Emergency Management Services Director Lonnie Scott and two employees from the Health Department, Gail Fryman and Laura Woodrum, on hand to explain why they thought the program would be good for the county.

Most of the points that explained the benefits of the needle exchange program were those that had been presented during the previous fiscal court meeting and were backed up with statistics noting how such programs had resulted in a drop in disease and overdose deaths related to the sharing of needles by users of opiod drugs.

However, before the interview session on Friday afternoon with Craig, Riddle and Guinn, notice was given to the Clinton County News on Thursday that a special meeting had been called for Friday morning with a single item on the agenda – the Health Department Needle Exchange.

Friday’s special call meeting lasted just over two minutes.

Once the meeting was called to order, Armstrong read KRS 218A.500 which allows a county to withdraw approval of the needle exchange program at any time.

An email from Richard J. Ornstein, attorney from the Kentucky Association of Counties to judge/executive Armstrong was presented, and in that email, he noted that since the approval passed in the previous meeting, it was his recommendation that the best way for the county to withdraw from the program would be to entertain a new motion withdrawing consent for the needle exchange program pursuant to KRS 218A.500(5)(b)(2).

Magistrate Russell made the motion to withdraw consent of the program with magistrate Hershell Key seconding the motion. All magistrates voted in favor of the motion with none opposed and the motion carried.

Armstrong then asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting, but before a motion was made, magistrate Craig asked “what’s the reasoning for withdrawing?”

No answer was given at that time and another motion to adjourn the meeting was asked by Armstrong. Russell made the motion to adjourn and it was seconded by Key.