Bill would legalize centers for 'safe use' of illegal drugs in Kentucky – WLKY Louisville
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When Shaneka Bond came to the Louisville Recovery Community Connection one year ago, she was pregnant and battling substance use.
Now, she’s sober and working the front desk of the facility, known as a harm reduction center.
“This place saved my life,” Bond said.
Under a bill introduced this week in the state legislature, HB 514, local health departments could open new harm reductions centers like the LRCC with a twist – they would allow visitors to use illegal drugs without fear of arrest.
They go by many names, such as safe injection, safe use or safe consumption sites. There are more than 100 in Canada, Europe and Australia. Only one operates in the United States and it just opened in November last year in New York City.
As with LRCC, the idea is to get people in the door and then help them.
The LRCC is Louisville’s only harm reduction center, although others exist throughout the state. Staff members teach people to use Narcan, a lifesaving nasal spray that reverses an overdose. They can also test visitors for Hepatitis C or HIV, two diseases commonly spread through shared needle use.
“At the same time, you have these outreach workers who are talking to them about the services in the community,” said Shreeta Waldon, executive director of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, which supports the legislation. “They’re talking about what recovery looks like.”
“Maybe that next opportunity they’ll say ‘Yes, I want to go to treatment.'”
The idea is not without controversy, a fact acknowledged by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville.
“I don’t think it will go through this year, but I’ve talked to a few other legislators about it who are like, ‘Yeah, there are some good outcomes, but it is Kentucky,'” she said. “And I’m like, let’s start the conversation and start talking about it.”
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