Yesterday, the President of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department released several letters criticizing the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health’s audit of the KCHD’s handling of the needle distribution program.  The release of the letters endorsing the needle distribution program coincided with news that Dr. Raul Gupta, the widely-respected West Virginia Director of Public Health and former Health Director of the KCHD, was leaving West Virginia to take a new job with the March of Dimes.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has been a vocal critic of the needle program and issued the following statement today:

“These seven so-called experts come from several other places, and they did not come here to see the invasion of needle users and people who preyed on them, and they certainly showed no understanding of the spike in violent crime and property crime that clearly happened as a direct result of that program.   I’m also guessing they had no idea that our Police and Fire Department had been telling the Health Department leadership about the problems related to the influx of needles for several months before we took steps to try to shut it down.

“Dr. Gupta is the most well-respected health professional in West Virginia, and I stand with him.  He’s been here on the front lines of health policy in Charleston, Kanawha County and West Virginia since he became the director of the Health Department.  And I stand with our police, firefighters, EMTs and building inspectors who had to put up with the influx of needles as they tried to do their jobs every day.  Unlike the Health Department’s hand-picked ‘experts’ who could treat this issue as an academic exercise, our first responders had to deal with the realities of the Health Department’s mismanagement of that program every day.”