The Kanawha County Health Department was forced to end their needle exchange program due to new rules implemented at the request Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and Police Chief Cooper. Below are statements in full from ACLU-WV Legal Director, Jamie Lynn Crofts:

“The death blow to Charleston’s needle exchange program today at the hand of Mayor Jones and Chief Cooper is appalling and completely circumvents the City Council’s decision to research the program and address problems that may exist. We stand in support of any policy that decriminalizes drug paraphernalia and treats addiction for what it is--a public health issue.”

“The end of this program is a tragedy for people suffering from addiction in Charleston. Evidence-based statistics don’t lie. Needle exchange programs save lives, increase access to better healthcare, establish trust that leads to greater numbers of individuals seeking recovery, and save the government money by decreasing drug-related incarceration rates. There is a wealth of medical research demonstrating that needle exchange programs drastically reduce the transmission rates of HIV, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases. These programs are not controversial within the medical community.”

“The conversation around and inevitable demise of this program is suspicious at best. We will be investigating communications relating to the needle exchange program among all City of Charleston agencies and institutions involved. Tomorrow, we are filing a Freedom of Information Act with the City of Charleston in an effort to gather the facts necessary to hold government officials responsible. The ACLU of West Virginia is committed to figuring out just how and why these decisions were made.”