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Indianapolis, state and health officials announce a syringe exchange program for Marion County. (Jill Sheridan/IPB News)
Jill Sheridan

Hepatitis C cases in Marion County are up so much, the public health department in Indianapolis declared an epidemic. A syringe exchange program is part of the county’s answer. 

Marion County Public Health Director Virginia Caine spelled out a proposal for a syringe exchange program Thursday. 

Charlotte Tuggle / WBAA

Tippecanoe County Health Department officials report a 93-percent syringe return rate among recurring participants during the first six months of the county’s needle exchange program.

A total of 138 people – most between the ages of 30 and 40 – have participated. The department has distributed about 11,000 needles in that time.

County Health Officer Jeremy Adler says the department has also focused on connecting participants with resources including substance abuse treatment, mental health services and Hepatitis C and HIV testing.

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Wikimedia Commons

One of the first Indiana counties to implement a syringe exchange is now the first in the state to effectively shut its program down.

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Governor Tom Wolf/FLICKR / https://www.flickr.com/photos/governortomwolf/

Medicaid spending on three important medications used to treat opioid addiction increased 136 percent nationwide between 2011 and 2016, according to a new report from the Urban Institute, a public policy think tank based in Washington D.C. The increases were much higher in some states—in seven states, rates rose more than 400 percent.

Nathan Forget / flickr.com/photos/nathanf/

Even though the number of hepatitis C cases in Tippecanoe County has doubled since 2013, location concerns keep blocking implementation of a syringe exchange program that could help stem the spread of disease.

That was the message from a Wednesday night meeting in Lafayette on the county’s battle against addiction and its ancillary health issues.

Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Consultant Dr. Joan Duwve  says hepatitis C is much easier to transmit than HIV, which is another concern that follows opioid epidemics.

hitthatswitch / https://www.flickr.com/photos/ringai/

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.

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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.

deepfruit / https://www.flickr.com/photos/slippek/

More than a year after the first one was established, more than one thousand people are now enrolled in Indiana’s several county-run needle exchange programs, and the Indiana State Department of Health is crediting them as one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

After months of discussion, Lawrence County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the state to approve a syringe exchange program.

The Lawrence County Health Department declared a public health emergency in February, in response to increasing rates of HIV and Hepatitis C, linked to intravenous drug use.

But public health nurse Sherry Lawson says county commissioners later expressed concern.

“They were okay with emergency, declaring the emergency, but when they discovered what was actually in the program, they weren’t comfortable with that,” Lawson says.

Gretchen Frazee, Indiana Public Media

An increase in the number of hepatitis C infections attributable to injection drug use has prompted Tippecanoe County Health Officer Jeremy Adler to start developing a plan to stem the spread of the virus.

County data show 61 percent of new hepatitis C cases last year occurred in people who had injected drugs, an increase from 50 percent in 2014, and 37 percent in 2013.

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