Need for Syringe Exchange in NKY

Dr. James Schack, NKMS Board Member at Large, attended the Newport City Council meeting on Monday, January 22 to address the need for a syringe exchange. River City News wrote a brief article about his talk. Please click on the link to read more:

Dr. Schack's article for the NKMS winter newsletter can be viewed below:

There have been 18 new diagnosed cases of HIV among IV drug users in 2017 in Kenton and Campbell counties.  We are all familiar with the story of Scott county Indiana HIV outbreak in 2015, with over 180 newly diagnosed IV drug users with HIV in a 4 month period. After that HIV outbreak the CDC studied all counties at risk for a similar HIV outbreak based on IV drug abuse rate, hepatitis C rates, and other factors. Grant, Kenton and Campbell counties were listed in the top 200 most at risk counties for an HIV outbreak, this was in 2015.

Since then Grant county has started a successful syringe exchange program that has been operating for over 1 year with 130 participants, 63 repeated participants. Kenton county has approved a syringe exchange program in Covington ON THE CONDITION that a syringe exchange becomes operational in Boone or Campbell county first. Campbell county made a few judicial approvals for the project but has remained idle on syringe exchange for the past 18 months. We can not afford to remain idle. This is a healthcare emergency for the safety of those struggling with addiction, first responders, and the public safety. This increase in HIV has been predicted for the past 2 years. If we don’t do something now we risk the continued spread of hepatitis C and an explosion of HIV in NKY.

I ask that as NKMS members you aid in stirring the conversation and creating momentum on this issue. Syringe exchange is an often politicized issue, but from a public health standpoint it’s common sense. It has been shown in repeated studies that syringe exchanges save over $7.50 for every $1 spent for HIV prevention ALONE. This does not factor in health savings for reducing the spread of Hepatic C which is rampant in NKY with population rates 3.5x that of the rest of the state and over 11x the average rate in the US. As a medical society our focus on this important issue is best turned to Campbell county. The Newport city council will be having a debate on this issue on February 12th. Members of the council are interested in the opinions of the public, specifically healthcare workers.  I strongly encourage you to go to and email city council members BEFORE this meeting about the importance and medical necessity of a syringe exchange, especially if you practice or live in Campbell county.  A vote to open a syringe exchange in Campbell county will create domino momentum by moving forward a syringe exchange in Kenton county. There is a train coming down the tracks, the crossing arms are down, the lights are flashing, the horn is blowing loudly. We have to wake up and get off the tracks.  Don’t let Northern Kentucky become the next Southern Indiana.


Thanks for all your help,

James Schack, MD


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