Indiana could soon see needle exchange programs popping up statewide in an attempt to stem rising rates of hepatitis C and stave off another HIV epidemic linked to intravenous drug use like the one Scott County faced two years ago.
But if the nine programs underway in Indiana are any indication, the success of future programs will vary widely.
Earlier this month, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill allowing local governments to establish syringe or needle exchange programs without having to receive state approval. Indiana’s needle exchange program law that was passed two years ago required the State Department of Health to review and approve requests for such programs.
(BEDFORD) – The Lawrence County needle exchange program is now aiming for a December 1 start date, as opposed to November 1.
Sherry Lawson, Lawrence County Health Department public health nurse, says that the reason for the later start date is due to training local law enforcement officers so they are aware of legal protections provided to those who have received services from a needle exchange program.
On Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health declared a public health emergency for Lawrence County in October, allowing the county’s health department to establish a needle-exchange program in an effort to reduce the spread of hepatitis C.
The Indiana State Department of Health has declared a public health emergency for Allen County, granting local officials to move ahead with a syringe exchange program in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health – with partners Positive Resource Connection and Park Center – will open an exchange facility in early November at 519 Oxford Street in Fort Wayne.
LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — A public health emergency has been declared in Lawrence County due to the spread of hepatitis C.
As a result, a syringe exchange program will be established. Senate Enrolled Act 461 made syringe exchange programs legal in Indiana if certain requirements are met.
“As we fight the national opioid epidemic, we’ve seen time and again that rising hepatitis C rates can be a sign that injection drug use is occurring in a community,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “Syringe exchange is one tool that can help prevent the spread of disease, so long as it’s part of a response that also includes access to testing, treatment and other services critical to improving individuals’ health.”
Note: This news story includes a video that includes our very own Matthew Zielske.
As the number of suspected fatal heroin overdoses continues on a record-setting pace in Vanderburgh County, the demand for services from area organizations continues to rise. Officials from AIDS Resource Group in Evansville report increases in the number of people being tested for HIV in addition to those wanting ham reduction kits, which contain potentially life-saving materials needed to clean and sterilize needles.
According to the Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office, there have been 18 suspected fatal heroin overdoses so far in 2016. There were eight heroin overdoses in 2014 and 2015 combined.
The record-setting pace doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
Indiana made national public health news. The New England Journal of Medicine presented several articles over the past year analyzing the situation, and the national media covered the story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t about a public health achievement.
In January 2015, 11 cases of HIV were identified in rural Scott County by the State Department of Health. That was unusual since HIV traditionally occurs mostly in urban centers. The number of cases exploded, and by November 2015, 181 HIV cases were identified. Only five cases of HIV were reported in Scott County from 2004 to 2013.
In 2011, a cluster of Hepatitis C cases was discovered in rural southeast Indiana. Since the occurrence of Hepatitis C and HIV tend to occur together because of their association with intravenous drug use and needle sharing, it should have served as a warning sign that HIV cases could soon increase as well.