Traverse City approves needle exchange program

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Traverse City leaders have unanimously approved needle exchanges for intravenous drug users.
Commissioner Michele Howard suggested needle exchanges to reduce the effects of an opioid crisis affecting the Grand Traverse County area, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.
Pam Lynch, co-director of Harm Reduction Michigan, said the opioid epidemic has led to more use of injected drugs — and higher rates of hepatitis C infection. She said the needle exchange program aims to educate drug users about treatment options. Lynch said the program can also reduce crime, health care costs and dirty needles tossed along sidewalks.
Jerry Hendershott, who spoke to commissioners about his personal experience as a drug user, credited Lynch with saving his life. He believes a needle exchange in Traverse City could save even more lives.
“I’ve seen this hundreds — thousands of times over — people use the needles until the numbers are worn off, until they will not go into skin any more, until they break,” he said. “When I say the numbers are worn off, think about how many hands that’s passed through before that actually happens.”
Commissioners haven’t set aside any money to fund the program. They plan to discuss a $10,000 request as they consider Traverse City’s 2018-19 budget.