Jessica Lilly Published

Mercer County Health Dept. Seeks A Thoughtful Return to Its Harm-Reduction Program


Administrators with the Mercer County Health Department are looking for creative ways to bring back a harm-reduction program. The county board met and voted to close the program last month.

Mercer County Health Department Administrator Roger Topping blamed new state legislation with “unreasonable requirements” for the closure. Topping says there’s not enough resources to meet the requirements of the new law.

One example Topping pointed out is a requirement for a staff member on call 24/7, while the department is already short-staffed.

The harm-reduction program in Mercer County had previously exchanged needle-for-needle, had supplied naloxone and offered mental health service referrals upon request.

The exchange was meant to help properly dispose of needles and reduce the amount of drug paraphernalia waste in school yards and church parking lots.

Topping says the program was working. As a result of the public hearing, held Oct. 19, Topping will form a committee to find a way to bring it back.

Topping said he hopes to move quickly with the committee and meet within the next two weeks.

“We haven’t given up on it,” Topping said. “We are just looking into how we might do it in another way.”