Eric Douglas Published

Needle Exchange Closes in Mercer County

Needles at the Alaska AIDS Assistance Association syringe exchange in Anchorage.

The Mercer County Health Department voted Wednesday to close its needle exchange program due to strict requirements under a new state law, according to reporting from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

“Under the new law, we can’t comply,” Health Department Administrator Roger Topping told board members. He noted almost 50 requirements that had to be approved for a license to offer a harm reduction program that includes a needle exchange.

Mercer County health officials began the needle exchange in 2019.

The law in question, West Virginia Senate Bill 334, requires programs offering syringe exchanges to deny clean needles to those who don’t return used ones and only serve clients with state IDs.

Syringe exchanges are widely seen by public health experts as a key measure in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.