Officials halt Madison County's needle exchange

By The Associated Press

ANDERSON — Commissioners in a central Indiana county have failed to extend the county's needle exchange, halting local efforts to prevent the spread of diseases among intravenous drug users by providing them with clean needles.

Madison County’s needle exchange began in 2015 and was initially overseen by the county’s health department. But it was temporarily shut down in 2017 when the county council voted that no taxpayer dollars could be used for the program.

Aspire Health Indiana took over the program in 2018, but it was placed in limbo after the commissioners failed to vote by June 5 to renew the program, The Herald Bulletin reported.

Barbara Scott, president and CEO of Aspire, said in an email that the agency continues to provide all other services, including outreach, hepatitis C testing and education.

“We must refer participants to other exchange programs for the time being,” she wrote. “We can also provide education on how to clean needles.”

Statistics provided by Aspire Indiana Health that it has served 207 people through the program. Aspire Indiana Health said 19% of those participants have entered substance use treatment.

Needle-exchange programs provide IV drug users with clean syringes to prevent needle-sharing that spreads diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.

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