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Madison County considers needle exchange program contract

April 23, 2018

Commissioners in a central Indiana county that ended its needle exchange last year are expected to vote to allow a local behavioral health system to resume the program.

Madison County commissioners are expected to consider a contract with Aspire Health of Indiana on May 15, The Herald Bulletin reported.

Needle exchange programs provide people with clean syringes to discourage needle sharing and reduce the spread of disease.

The County Council adopted an ordinance in August effectively ending the needle exchange program by barring the use of local tax money to manage the program. The program was managed by the county Health Department.

The exchange started in August 2015 after the county northeast of Indianapolis declared a public health emergency stemming from needle-sharing that was spreading Hepatitis C and HIV.

Aspire's Harm Reduction Program emphasizes testing for HIV and Hepatitis C, a syringe exchange, vaccinations for Hepatitis C and B, and an outpatient detoxification plan. The program won’t provide tourniquets and would only distribute syringes and cookers, which are used to dissolve drugs.

Aspire aims to keep the syringe exchange rate as close to a one-to-one exchange as possible, said Syd Ehmke, chief operating officer of Aspire.

“We want to change behaviors,” Ehmke said. “We want education about treatment to be the focus on a client’s recovery.”

Aspire officials hope to begin the program in June.

Indiana began authorizing needle exchanges in 2015 following an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana’s Scott County linked to needle-sharing.

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