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Health & Science

Canton to Join Ohio Cities Combatting Hep-C and Other Diseases with Needle Exchanges

Dr. Odell Owens

The Canton Board of Health today approved a needle exchange program to try to control the fallout from the heroin crisis. 

Canton’s program is expected to cost about $150,000 a year, and the goal  is to fight the escalating rate of hepatitis-C and other blood-borne diseases that are spread through shared needles. Cleveland has the state’s oldest such program, begun in 1995, and Cincinnati began its program about four years ago.

Dr. Odell Owens, who was the Hamilton County coroner and now runs a nonprofit called Interact for Health in Cincinnati, says the exchange programs are crucial for gathering information as well as fighting disease.

“They actually have to fill out a questionnaire. Are you positive for hep-C? Do you have insurance, who turned you on to drugs first, what is your age, where do you live? So we gather a lot of data because you know if you don’t have data, you can’t manage a problem.”

Owens foresees hepatitis C as the next big health issue stemming from the heroin crisis, and notes that it can spread beyond the drug users to their spouses and partners, and cost more than $50,000 a year per person to treat.