Needle exchange program starts

Staff reports

A needle exchange program began Saturday in Scott County due to the recent HIV outbreak in southeastern Indiana.

Gov. Mike Pence authorized the measure as part of a comprehensive emergency executive order. This temporarily suspends the Indiana Code on needle exchange there, according to state health officials.

As of Saturday, there have been a total of 84 confirmed cases of HIV and five preliminary positive cases in southeastern Indiana.

This includes Scott, Jackson, Washington, Clark and Perry counties, according to a news release.

The needle exchange program will only be for Scott County residents, and participants will be asked to discuss their rate of drug use. The program also will collect basic demographic information for research and statistical purposes.

The goal of the program is the use of a clean syringe for each injection use, said Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs.

Late last month, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the HIV outbreak in Scott County “an epidemic.” Based on that information, Pence declared a public health disaster emergency there.

The executive order and the needle exchange program will expire April 25 but will be evaluated at the end of that period to determine if it should be continued, health officials said.

The needle exchange will take place at the One-Stop Shop at the Community Outreach Center, 2277 W. Frontage Road in Austin.

Operated by the Scott County Health Department, the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Grace Covenant Church is providing a free shuttle service to and from the One-Stop Shop in Austin by calling 317-617-2223.

Participating individuals will receive enough needles for one week. When in need of additional needles, participants are asked to bring their used needles to exchange.

The program also will present an opportunity for health representatives to provide information about substance abuse treatment and information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

The One-Stop Shop also is open to provide free HIV testing, vaccinations against tetanus, hepatitis A and B, and information about HIV and hepatitis prevention, treatment and resources.

Substance abuse referrals are available, and individuals also can receive assistance in enrolling in Healthy Indiana Plan insurance, according to the news release.

At a glance

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at StateHealth.in.gov. Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at facebook.com/isdh1.

At a glance

The needle exchange is taking place at the One-Stop Shop located at the Community Outreach Center, 2277 W. Frontage Road in Austin.

Operated by the Scott County Health Department, the program will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

The One-Stop Shop information line is 317-605-1480.