INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would allow needle exchange programs across Indiana passed the House on Tuesday and is headed back to the Senate which hasn’t considered that provision of the legislation.
Senate Bill 461 – sponsored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany – would lower the legal barriers for providing needles to drug users and require the programs to provide drug treatment information to participants.
The proposal comes as Gov. Mike Pence’s administration implements a limited and temporary needle exchange program in Scott County, where intravenous drug use has led to an HIV outbreak. Nearly 90 confirmed cases – all linked to the drug use – have been reported.
Clere said the proposed statewide measure would allow additional needle exchange programs in counties that are deemed high risk based on their Hepatitis C rates. That disease can also be spread through contaminated needles.
“The danger in limiting needle exchange in Scott County is that it’s reactive,” Clere said. “We have the opportunity to get in front of this and other high risk areas of the state and keep it from happening again.”
Opponents of the measure said they are concerned about the bill conflicting with the state’s current paraphernalia laws. They also worry it would encourage drug use in the state.
The bill passed out of the House 54-39.
Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news site powered by Franklin College journalism students.