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Clark County finally begins needle-exchange program

January 26, 2017

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana county started its needle-exchange program Thursday five months after winning state approval for one to curb the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.

Clark County’s needle exchange program allows intravenous drug users to exchange used needles for clean ones and to receive HIV and hepatitis C testing and counseling on resources for addiction treatment. The program will be open for six hours every Thursday at a clinic in Jeffersonville.

Clark County began considering an exchange following an HIV epidemic centered in neighboring Scott County linked to intravenous drug use, said Dr. Kevin Burke, the county health officer.

“We started looking at our own statistics and found that we had 25 percent more HIV/AIDS cases and 30 percent more hepatitis C cases compared to the rest of the state,” Burke said. ”(We) decided that we needed to attack the problem more directly.”

The exchange also should reduce overdoses. It will provide clients with naloxone, an antidote to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Clark County, located across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, last year recorded 87 fatal drug overdoses, an increase from 55 in 2015.

Delladee Grant, who said her stepson is a recovering heroin addict, went to a preview of the exchange Wednesday to get more information about the services it will offer.

“I have a lot of people in my life affected by intravenous drug use,” Grant told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. “You can’t have enough help when it comes to addiction.”

Clark County’s exchange was approved by the state in August, but it did not have funding until it received a $7,000 grant in October from the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis. Philanthropic partnerships will pay for supplies. It will be run largely by volunteers.

Needle-exchange programs have been approved for nine of Indiana’s 92 counties. The others are Allen, Fayette, Lawrence, Madison, Monroe, Scott, Tippecanoe and Wayne counties.

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