Religious Leaders Protesting Licking County's Ban On Syringe Exchanges

Feb 18, 2020

Faith and community leaders plan to ask the Licking County Board of Health to repeal a ban on syringe access programs at the board’s meeting Tuesday.

Last year, the Licking County Board of Health voted to ban any needle exchange or access programs. The programs allow people to drop off used needles and receive clean ones, and are intended to reduce the spread of HIV and provide resources to curb drug addiction.

In a statement, the Licking County Board of Health says their decision to ban syringe exchange programs (SEP) is "reflected by a majority of community members, elected officials, medical professionals, and first responders who actively voiced a disapproval of an SEP."

Citizens immediately began protesting the move, including one member of the addiction advocacy group OhioCAN who has attended every board meeting since the ban was put in place.

"This is simply care for those who are most marginalized in our society which is what the gospel calls us to as Christians," says Blyth Barnow.

Barrow, a member of Faith In Public Life, is one of the faith leaders calling for an end to the ban.

"As Jesus says in John 10:10, God wants us to have life and have it abundantly, and syringe exchange programs are an act of love and an affirmation of life," Barnow says.

The CDC reports syringe programs are associated with a 50% reduction in blood-borne illnesses. New participants are five times more likely to enter treatment, and three times more likely to stop using drugs altogether.