Syringe exchange program

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The Indiana Senate has sent a bill allowing counties to start their own syringe exchanges to the governor for his signature. Current law says programs must be approved by the state health department.

The state approved its first needle exchange in 2015 after a serious HIV epidemic, fueled by intravenous drug use, broke out in downstate Scott County.

Advocates of county approval, including State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, say the bill eliminates a time-wasting step, and that local governments know best the health needs of their counties.

 

The House passed legislation that aims to crack down on heroin dealers and those who rob pharmacies. But critics argue the legislature is “backsliding” to previous, failed attempts to address the drug epidemic.

The bill increases penalties for robbing a pharmacy and dealing certain amounts of heroin. It also prevents a judge from suspending all or part of some heroin dealing sentences.

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Indiana senators are looking to add more restrictions and regulations to county syringe exchange programs, or SEPs.

Four amendments have been added a bill granting counties the ability to set up their own syringe services programs. Currently, the state health commissioner must certify a public health emergency before such a program can be created.

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A bill that would give counties the ability to set up needle exchanges without first getting state approval is one step closer to becoming law.

A Senate committee has approved the bill despite concerns from Attorney General Curtis Hill.

The Attorney General’s office says it’s neutral on the legislation, but nevertheless sent a representative to Wednesday’s Health and Provider Services Committee with a list of amendments.

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Tippecanoe County has received about one-fourth of the grant money it requested to fund a syringe exchange services program aimed at slowing the spread of Hepatitis C among I-V drug users.

Commissioner Tracy Brown says the county accepted an $8,500 grant from the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis.

The county had asked for nearly $33,000.

But Brown insists that’s a good first step toward obtaining cash to buy supplies for the program that, under state law, cannot be funded with taxpayer dollars.

Joe Flintham
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A governor-approved bill that would give Indiana counties and municipalities the ability to set up their own syringe exchanges passed its first hurtle, clearing the House Committee on Public Health Wednesday afternoon.

Currently, local and regional governments need the state health commissioner to declare a public health emergency before counties can establish their syringe exchange programs. The new bill still does not allow the state to fund the programs, and communities would still have the option to establish exchanges through the state approval method.

Steve Burns / WTIU

Tippecanoe County officials may be coalescing around the idea of using a mobile unit to house the county’s recently-approved syringe services program.

Chris Morisse Vizza/WBAA News

The Tippecanoe County Commissioners voted Monday to endorse a plan to establish a syringe exchange and services program aimed at reducing the spread of hepatitis C among intravenous drug users.

But Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski vented his frustrations after the vote.

One by one, doctors, addiction treatment professionals, researchers, church leaders and a captain from the Fort Wayne police department stepped to the podium to tell the commissioners why Tippecanoe County should create a syringe services program.

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Since 2015, Indiana counties have established syringe-exchange programs with the hopes of curbing the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

The latest county to establish such a service — Allen County — has decided to call the program something different, a move other counties in Indiana are considering as well.

The Indiana bill legalizing needle exchanges refers to the services as syringe exchange programs, and most counties’ terminology has followed suit. But earlier this month, Allen County announced the establishment of a syringe services program.

Steve Burns / WTIU

Both of Indiana’s gubernatorial front-runners say the state’s current system for fighting drug-related disease needs an overhaul.

When it comes to state-funded syringe exchange programs, both lean toward reforming the current system, though one more emphatically than the other.

Even though state-approved syringe exchange programs were made legal last year in an effort to curb the spread of drug-related disease, the state doesn’t offer assistance to those programs. And the law explicitly bans using state money to purchase the needles themselves.

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