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Faith and Community Leaders Call on Licking County Board of Health to Repeal the Ban on Syringe Access Programs


February 19, 2020​


Michelle Nealy, mnealy@faithinpubliclife.org, (202) 735-7123
Blyth Barnow, bbarnow@faithinpubliclife.org, (440) 220-2090
Dan Clark, dclark@faithinpubliclife.org, (614) 648-3663

Faith and Community Leaders Call on Licking County Board of Health to Repeal the Ban on Syringe Access Programs 

Newark, Ohio — On Tuesday, February 18th, faith and community leaders called on the Licking County Board of Health to repeal their ban on syringe access programs. A year ago, the Licking County Board of Health voted to ban all syringe access programs, making it the only county in Ohio to do so. This ban must end. These programs save lives, improve health and help people who use drugs be connected to the community. Syringe access is a life-affirming approach to loving our neighbors who use drugs.

To watch a full video of the event, click here. For photos, click here.

Patricia “Trish” Perry, Co-Coordinator, Newark Homeless Outreach:

“[The Board of Health] needs to repeal because I should not have to do their jobs handing out 300-500 clean syringes each week. [Syringe access] is evidence-based and I personally know 50 people that would be utilizing the exchange and the medical help that is offered at one also. They should act on what they know is right.”  

Rev. Dan Clark, Ohio Director, Faith in Public Life, Licking County resident:

“Drugs don’t kill people. Shame and stigma kill people. This ban ignores the evidence and perpetuates shame and stigma. We need policies and services that offer health and dignity to every Licking County resident whether they use drugs or not.”

Blyth Barnow, Harm Reduction Faith Manager, Faith in Public Life:

“I came to harm reduction through grief and grace. It was my faith that led me to advocating for syringe exchange programs. Because I know that as Jesus says in John 10:10, God wants us to have life and have it abundantly. Syringe exchange programs are an act of love and an affirmation of life. The current ban leaves those who are vulnerable outside of the love and care of their community, left to die of preventable infections and diseases. And these infections do not remain within the boundaries of Licking County. This ban, this lack of love, impacts the entire state.” 

Rev. Terry Williams, Orchard Hill UCC, Chillicothe:

“The Licking County Health Department should make every effort to stack the deck in favor of grace, compassion, and care for residents who struggle with addiction. When our leaders know what is good, and choose instead to do otherwise, God calls us to confront them in love and call them to be accountable those whose suffering is both preventable and pervasive. God is calling out in Ohio: people who use drugs are my beloved, and they deserve better!”

Laura Cash, Board Member and Chapter Group Coordinator of Broken No More/GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing), who lost her son Mark to an accidental overdose: 

“I speak out so another person and his or her family won’t suffer a needless, preventable death. We are losing thousands of wonderful young people whose lives could be saved if we employ scientific evidence-based treatments and strategies. Syringe access is one of those strategies that is proven to prevent the spread of disease, be a gateway to treatment  and other needed medical services, save lives and, most importantly, show people who use drugs they are loved. I can’t understand why a health board would look the other way and not try to use everything available to save lives in their community.”


Faith in Public Life is a national network of over 50,000 clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice and the common good.

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