FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Marion County’s Harm Reduction Program is being shut down.
The Marion County Health Department started the Harm Reduction program in hopes of getting people with drug addictions back onto their feet, and into normal lives. They said they’ve been successful with that, but because of Senate bill 334, that was just passed, they’re being forced to shut it down.
Recently the bill was approved by Governor Jim Justice, and will require all syringe service programs to follow more guidelines with the Office of Health Facilities.
Requirements include; completing an application, getting a license every year and other rules for handling syringes.
And if these aren’t followed, the department could face hefty fines.
“I think just trying to meet the requirements are ever challenging,” Lloyd White Marion, County Health Department Administrator said. “Obviously you think you’re doing everything right, but there’s a possibility that you wouldn’t be and have fines levied for you. I think the potential for fines are far more of a risk then I want to take particularly in a pandemic”
Without the program, the community will have one less resource for drug addiction help.
“I think we’ll see a lot of dirty needles in the street. I think we certainly increase the risk of blood born pathogens, as a result of dirty needles. I think we’ll certainly see an increase in HIV STD cases. We’ll see more hospitalizations due to endocarditis, and those things are direct results of using dirty needles, and we’ll see more infections and unfortunately we’ll see more deaths,” White said, “Those are the things that distresses me.”
The bill will take effect on July 9, and White said until then, they will continue their service.
“If we truly care about people, then we’ll go the extra mile to make sure their needs are taken care of irrespective of where they are in life,” said White.
12 News reached out to Senators Capito and Kessinger for a statement – both voted to pass the bill and both have not yet responded.