Cincinnati Business Courier (02.10.2014)
The Cincinnati Business Courier reported that the Cincinnati Exchange Project launched a recreational vehicle (RV)-based medical needle-exchange program on February 10 at a Springdale shopping center in Hamilton County, Ohio, to prevent HIV and hepatitis spread among heroin addicts. Dr. Judith Feinberg, professor of internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati and the project’s medical director, stated that the program aimed to encourage addicts to enter drug rehabilitation programs and to keep them “disease free.” The needle-exchange program also protected the general public from accidental exposure through dirty needles discarded in the community.
Feinberg explained that heroin addicts could come to the medical RV at Old Gate Plaza, 290 Northland Boulevard, on Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Thursdays from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., and exchange a used syringe for a new syringe and sterile cotton. The hepatitis C virus could stay infectious on cotton for up to nine weeks. According to Feinberg, hepatitis C treatment could cost as much as $100,000 per patient.
The project partnered with local drug treatment programs, medical care, mental health, and infectious disease services for referrals. Program staff and volunteers offered free onsite HIV, hepatitis C, and pregnancy testing, and would refer pregnant addicts for immediate treatment.
Springdale officials approved the program in 2013, and the RV could travel to other county locations with local officials’ approval. Adam Reilly, project director, stated that Cincinnati’s heroin “epidemic” was highly dispersed; the mobile medical unit could provide services in suburban and rural areas. According to Feinberg, heroin addiction increased in Cincinnati because of the rising cost of illegal prescription drugs.
Interact for Health provided a single $50,000 grant to fund a project coordinator and program supplies. The Cincinnati Exchange Project Web site, http://cincyep.org/, outlined the program and sought donations to support the intervention.