Huntington – Despite the controversy surrounding the County Commission’s oversight of the county’s Harm Reduction program, Huntington Quick Response Team Coordinator Connie Priddy stands firm in support of the initiative. Priddy asserted that the harm reduction program has fulfilled its intended purpose and provides essential services, including peer recovery support.
Priddy emphasized the program’s role in keeping individuals alive and healthy, thereby preventing the spread of diseases associated with drug misuse. The harm reduction initiative, which includes the distribution of clean needles to drug addicts, has been a crucial component in addressing the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in Huntington and Cabell County.
Addressing concerns raised by critics, Priddy acknowledged the challenges, especially in monitoring needle exchange rates. She underscored the importance of providing services to individuals referred to the harm reduction program and the need to support them until they can receive comprehensive help.
Commissioner John Mandt, who supports the program’s continuation, echoed Priddy’s sentiments, stating that, for the time being, the harm reduction program will remain unchanged. Mandt expressed a willingness to reassess the program based on any legislative developments.
Mandt had asked for a discussion of the program in a recent commission meeting, then asked for the item to be removed after discussing the matter with a state Senator. Sources in the courthouse say that Putnam / Cabell Senator Eric Tarr informed Mandt the Senate will be taking up a bill to end or severely curtail harm reduction programs across the state. Tarr did not return a call to staff reporters about the issue.
The harm reduction initiative’s resilience in the face of criticism and potential policy changes reflects the ongoing tension between different perspectives on addressing drug misuse and public health challenges. As the community navigates these complexities, the role of harm reduction programs in supporting individuals and preventing the spread of diseases remains a central point of discussion and contention.