January 11, 2018

Group In Talks To Take Over Indiana County's Needle Exchange

Madison County Health Department administrator Stephenie Grimes told the county's health board Wednesday that a not-for-profit group is negotiating to take over the county's needle exchange. - Side Effects Public Media

Madison County Health Department administrator Stephenie Grimes told the county's health board Wednesday that a not-for-profit group is negotiating to take over the county's needle exchange.

Side Effects Public Media

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — A central Indiana county that ended its needle exchange program for drug users last summer is in talks with a local group to resume the exchange, a county health official said.

Madison County Health Department administrator Stephenie Grimes told the county's health board Wednesday that a not-for-profit group is negotiating to take over the program aimed at preventing the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV through the sharing of infected needles.

That group wasn't identified, pending a vote by its board of directors, The Herald Bulletin reported .

Madison County's commissioners would have to approve any contract with the group, which would report directly to the State Department of Health, Grimes said.

"The Madison County Health Department will be hands off. It's all up to the not-for-profit," she said.

Madison County's health officer, Stephen Wright, said the unnamed group has a good reputation and he's glad it's interested in operating the exchange.

The negotiations come after the Madison County Council adopted an ordinance last August that bars the use of local tax money to manage the needle-exchange. That move effectively ended the program, which allowed drug users to exchange used needles for clean ones.

The exchange started in August 2015 after the county northeast of Indianapolis declared a public health emergency stemming from needle-sharing that was spreading hepatitis C and HIV.

Grimes said that since the program ended in August, only seven people have been tested for hepatitis C in the county.

"People are going back to sharing needles," she said.

Southern Indiana's Lawrence County also ended its needle exchange last year. The county's commissioners in October terminated a county agreement with Indiana Recovery Alliance to operate its exchange, citing concerns that it was providing illegal paraphernalia to IV drug users.

Indiana began authorizing the exchanges in 2015 following an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana's Scott County linked to needle-sharing.

Seven Indiana counties — Allen, Clark, Fayette, Monroe, Scott, Tippecanoe and Wayne — currently operate the exchanges.

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