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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky's largest city is taking the lead as its first to offer a needle-exchange program, but other communities are reviewing such swaps as a way to combat heroin addiction, prevent the spread of diseases and steer drug users toward treatment.

Needle exchanges in Louisville will begin Wednesday in a trailer parked outside the city's Public Health and Wellness headquarters, health officials said Tuesday. The goal is to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and boost treatment among drug users.

"This is about the public safety of our entire community," said Louisville Metro Council member David Yates.

Needle exchanges surfaced as a contentious issue when Kentucky lawmakers worked on sweeping anti-heroin legislation this year.

The final product passed into law allows local governments to set up programs in which addicts can swap dirty needles for clean ones. It also toughens penalties for heroin dealers of at least 60 grams and increases spending on substance abuse treatment programs.

The issue is generating debate in other Kentucky cities.


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