NewsHealth / May 17, 2018

Public Health Epidemic Declared For Marion County, Syringe Exchange Program Proposed

Marion County Health Department

Marion County Health Department

Marion County may soon join the list of communities around the state offering syringe exchanges in an effort to slow the spread of disease through injection drug use. 

Marion County Public Health Department director Dr. Virginia A. Caine declared a public health epidemic and proposed a syringe exchange program Thursday morning, citing a 1,000 percent increase in hepatitis C cases from 2013 to 2017, and the potential for an HIV outbreak.

The declaration is the first step required by state law for a county to implement a syringe exchange program. The next requirement is approval by the City-County Council.

Council President Vop Osili (D) joined Caine for the briefing with public health officials and expressed his support for the proposal. He said the syringe exchange program will be introduced for consideration at the council's next meeting on May 21.

Caine said the proposed program would ensure injection drug users have access to clean needles to prevent infections, keep used needles off the streets and connect individuals with health services.

Initially, the program would operate as a mobile unit. Sites would be based on overdose deaths by location, residences of decedents, Indianapolis EMS use of Narcan, and recommendations by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Support services offered through the program would include:

  • HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening
  • Safer drug use practices
  • Referral for substance use disorder and mental health treatment
  • Wound care education
  • Immunizations
  • Referral to primary care
  • Access to health insurance coverage

After introduction of the program proposal to the council, the health department will host three public meetings:


Date and Time

City-County Building
200 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN
Room 260
Tuesday, May 22 at
5:30 p.m.
Marion County Public Health Department
3838 N. Rural St., Indianapolis, IN 46205
1st Floor Conference Room
Thursday, May 31 at
6 p.m.
Marion County Public Health Department
3838 N. Rural St., Indianapolis, IN 46205
1st Floor Conference Room
Wednesday, June 13 at
6 p.m.

This story will be updated.

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