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At Issue: Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction Program really works

Previously published in the Record Eagle Opinion Section

May 10, 2019

Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners,

I am here to talk about the Harm Reduction Program you recently turned down. When you voted against that program, you voted to increase the spread of Blood-borne pathogens throughout our county. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, because how would you know about the complexities and frustrations of dealing with the drug culture? You should have postponed the vote.

Your personal biases should not determine what the health department has available to deal with the spread of Hepatitis C in our county. Grand Traverse County has one of the highest incidents of Hep C in the state? Did you know that Blood-borne pathogen remains contagious for over two weeks even after the blood has dried? Blood from something as simple as an infected person’s paper cut can expose hundreds of people.

I was a nurse for fifty years. I took an oath to provide the best care possible for my patients and to advocate for them when I felt that care was not being provided. I am here today as an advocate for the people of Grand Traverse County because I believe you have done them a great disservice.

The Harm Reduction Program has statistical data from efforts all over the world, proving that it has decreased the number of Hepatitis C cases in the communities where it is involved. Another statistical benefit is the number of drug addicts also decreased because their care, counseling, and education, often act as a gateway to more intensive treatment.

The objective here should not be to punish drug addicts – but to stop the spread of Hepatitis C.

No one wakes up in the morning wanting to become a drug addict. Take Aunt Martha who has been addicted to Vicodin for the last two years since she had her knee replacement. She has a doctor who renews her scripts every month and her insurance covers the cost of her addiction. Then there’s the veteran who lost a leg while serving, and is suffering from PTSD while shooting up on the streets. He gets his meds from a guy he met on the streets while waiting for two to three months to get an appointment at his VA Clinic. Just because Martha gets her drugs in a legal way does not make her less of an addict. (Her doctor is her drug dealer.) Because the veteran was unable to get his drugs from a legal source does not make him less worthy of compassionate care. What you have done is taken away a proven defense the county had in this fight against the spread of Hepatitis. Addiction is not contagious, but Hepatitis C is.

I am asking you to put this program back on your agenda. If you feel you need more information to realize the seriousness of this issue, invite the people from the program back to answer questions. This program is a gift to our community. Why would you want to turn this away?

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