Jackson County Health Department starting CARES Clinic; hires harm reduction coordinator

The Jackson County Health Department is starting a new clinic to expand its services to include screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

The Collaborative Advocacy Referral & Educational Services Clinic will be a part of the department’s harm reduction program, which currently provides screenings for HIV and hepatitis C and distributes the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to those who need it.

Dr. Christopher Bunce, public health officer with the Jackson County Health Department, said the clinic is a way to become more proactive in the prevention of transmissible diseases in the county associated with the drug epidemic.

“I think this fits nicely into what we’re already doing — HIV and hepatitis C screenings — and we would like to put STD into that and serve as a point of contact for the other services,” he said.

Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator with the health department, said the services may include referrals for housing or jobs. Other services will be determined when they learn about the needs of the population that visits the clinic.

The department recently received approval from the Jackson County Commissioners to hire a CARES Clinic coordinator, Christy Thrasher. She has experience in the development of similar clinics in Monroe and Jennings counties and has volunteered in Scott County.

Thrasher will manage the operations of the clinic and train required staff and volunteers and community volunteers, both one-on-one and group training, to prevent and reverse overdoses.

She also will collaborate with other health department staff members and agencies in the county to make sure the program is well-coordinated and complements each other.

The health department allows walk-ins for HIV and hepatitis C screenings, and Montgomery said the vision is to have an extended-hour clinic from 4:30 to 7 p.m. once a week to do HIV, hepatitis C and STD screenings.

Naloxone distribution also will be a service at the CARES Clinic. Through a grant, the health department has been providing naloxone to anyone who walks in and requests it.

“We were very strategic when we applied for that grant to become a distributor of naloxone,” Montgomery said. “We targeted the schools and volunteer fire departments that do not have access to a supply but make medical runs. Those guys all need to be trained. And then to make it available to individuals in the community that can’t afford to buy it.

The CARES Clinic came to fruition from a grant the health department received from the Indiana Local Health Department Trust Account, formerly known as the Tobacco Grant. The department has received funding for this year and soon should have approval for 2018.

At a glance

For information about the Collaborative Advocacy Referral & Educational Services Clinic or other services offered at the Jackson County Health Department, call 812-522-6474 or stop by the office at 801 W. Second St., Seymour.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.