How the Charleston Needle Exchange Closure Impacts the Rest of W.Va.


On this West Virginia Morning, one of the byproducts of the opioid crisis is an abundance of needle litter. In a new series, we explore why the state’s largest harm reduction program shut down and how perception, stigma and politics around that closure is impacting other programs around the state.

When you opened your mailbox, watched television or listened to commercial radio in the lead-up to the 2018 general election, you and other would-be voters were likely bombarded by political advertisements.

Like in elections past, some of those materials were paid for by candidate committees and are easily identified as such.

But the sources of the materials from other groups — known as independent expenditures and not authorized by a candidate or a candidate committee — are often more difficult to discern.

Senior reporter Dave Mistich has been looking into these groups. He spoke with Assistant News Director Glynis Board about what he’s learned and how getting the full picture on outside spending remains problematic.

In December of 2015, with support from the city of Charleston, the Kanawha Charleston Health Department launched a harm-reduction program, including a needle exchange.

The primary goal was to reduce the risk of needle-born diseases. The secondary goal was to connect illicit drug users to treatment and recovery services. The program closed a little more than two years after it opened, amid controversy.

During the next week, Health Reporter Kara Lofton is taking a deep dive into what happened, and how the needle exchange’s closure affects other community harm-reduction programs.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look into an idea the city had for reducing needle litter, why it failed and how failure ultimately led to the abrupt closure of the Charleston program.

Appalachia Health News is a project of Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.

West Virginia Morning is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting which is solely responsible for its content.

Support for our news bureaus comes from West Virginia University, Concord University, and Shepherd University.

Our news director is Jesse Wright. Our producer is Glynis Board.