ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Anderson Township is considering adding a needle exchange site in the area to help combat the drug epidemic, but is not sitting well with many residents.
Some fear it would bring more drug and crime issues.
The township is considering three different locations for the mobile site: 6835 Kellogg Ave., 8330 Broadwell Rd and Mercy Health Anderson.
On Tuesday night, several residents packed Anderson Center Theater, the last of three public meetings to express their concerns.
"Instead of giving free needles these people need to be rehabilitated," said one of the residents.
"My question is 'Why Anderson Township?" asked another.
The mobile Needle Exchange Program is already running in three other areas in Hamilton County. The Health Commissioner says since the program started they have gotten 17,000 dirty needles off the street.
"You said you got 17,000 dirty needles off the street. You put 17,000 clean needles back on the street," said Richard Mousir.
He owns Gymnastic Central, which is less than a two minute drive near one of the proposed locations for the needle exchange site on Broadwell Road.
"We have 800 families a week coming through here. It's right across the street," he said.
Mousir said he is afraid one of the kids in his gym will ultimately pay the price if the trustees approve the plan.
"There's no bus routes, there's no walking routes here," he said. "They're going to have to drive in to exchange their needles and I'm worried someone is going to get hurt. I would hate to see a little 3-year-old leave our facility and get into a car accident on the road because someone is coming in under the influence."
Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan, a member of the county's heroin coalition, said he understands the residents' concerns.
"I get the fear, but I don't think the number and the facts show that's really a significant issue," he said.
Synan said the needle exchange program reduces crime. It also helps prevent Hepatitis C and HIV, which has spiked 38 percent in the county due to sharing needles.
But, he said, most importantly, the program offers resources to treatment and counseling.
"I think there's a misconception that we're just giving these needles and saying go have fun that not it at all. It's another point of contact to try to get somebody into care. That's what it's really about," he said.
Anderson Township Trustees said they will take all public input into consideration as they consider the request and then vote whether to approve it or not.
So far, they have not announced when they will vote.