April 20, 2016

Scott County Asking State To Continue Needle Exchange

The Scott County Health Department says the needle exchange played a key role in slowing the spread of HIV. - Steve Burns/WTIU

The Scott County Health Department says the needle exchange played a key role in slowing the spread of HIV.

Steve Burns/WTIU

Scott County is asking the state for permission to continue its needle exchange program for a second year. It was the first exchange of its kind in the state after an HIV outbreak last year.

People packed into a small meeting room Wednesday as the Scott County Commissioners considered whether to approve the health board’s request to continue the program.

Nearly 200 people in the county are living with HIV and many of them caught the virus by sharing needles.

The county health department says the exchange played a key role in slowing the spread of HIV. Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs says she’s signed about 400 people up for the exchange since it started and 186 consistently used the exchange over the past few months.

“We’re still getting new people all the time that sign up,” Combs says. “And the good news is that some people never come back because they go to rehab or quit using.”

But some commissioners and police expressed concerns over where the needles end up after they’re used. They say they’re getting complaints about people finding needles on their property and near public places in Austin.

“I would like to have a discussion from the law enforcement side of it about the drug abuse piece to maybe massage the way it’s working a little bit,” says Scott County Sheriff Dan McClain.

The commissioners voted unanimously to continue the exchange. Scott County will now submit paperwork to the state health commissioner, who has the final say.

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