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Lawmakers Could Support More Needle Exchanges, As Long As They Fight Drug Use

Gretchen Frazee
Indiana Public Broadcasting

Legislative leaders say they‘re open to expanding an emergency needle-exchange program in Scott County to other parts of the state, as long as it goes beyond needles.

Senate President David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says legislators are working to expand a House-passed needle-exchange bill to incorporate provisions for HIV testing, drug treatment and enforcement. Long says it’d be a step toward combating drug runners who use Indiana as a storefront for their products.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he‘s uncomfortable with language giving county officials the right to implement a program. He says the state health commissioner should have a more central role in that decision.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Council is lobbying against the bill. Prosecutors argue a government-sponsored needle-sharing program sends the wrong message about drug abuse.

But Attorney General Greg Zoeller is urging legislators to pass the bill. Zoeller says after meeting with Scott County officials, he‘s concluded that what he calls a "serious, immediate solution" is needed to contain the H-I-V outbreak in Scott County and prevent the virus from springing up in other counties.

Governor Pence ordered a 60-day emergency needle exchange program in Scott County amid a spike in H-I-V cases. Pence has said he doesn‘t support a broad-based needle exchange, but hasn‘t directly addressed the legislation.