Needle exchange program starts in Scott County with 84 confirmed - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Needle exchange program starts in Scott County with 84 confirmed cases of HIV

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AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) - After declaring a public health emergency in Scott County for a growing number of HIV reported cases, Indiana Governor Mike Pence is temporarily changing a state law. A needle exchange program began Saturday, April 4, 2015 to help end the HIV epidemic.

“If you're using drugs please stop. Know that we have resources here to help you get off drugs and part of that is coming in,” said Dr. Jerome Adams, the Indiana State Health Commissioner.

By coming in to the One-Stop Shop in Austin, Indiana, people can be tested for HIV and receive information on prevention and treatment. They can also exchange dirty needles for clean ones.

“Our main goal in this program is a clean syringe for every participant for every use,” said Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs.

While Governor Mike Pence is clear he doesn't support needle exchanges, he has temporarily suspended the Indiana Code on needle exchanges until April 25 to allow for the program. Governor Pence has declared a public health emergency, with a total of 84 HIV confirmed cases in Scott County compared to less than five in a typical year.

The needle exchange program only includes Scott County residents. Dr. Adams says it's not just about giving out clean needles.

“It's about getting dirty needles off the street, it's about bringing people in, so that we can have discussions with them -- hey do you want counseling, do you need coverage?” said Dr. Adams.

“When a participant comes in, we will discuss with them how often per day they inject and then we will determine that need for a week,” said Combs.

Every time someone comes in for a new needle, participants will be asked to discuss their rate of drug use. The program will then collect basic demographic information for research and statistics.

The exchange will also serve as an educational process and that person can remain anonymous.

“There is no intention of arresting anyone, or harassing anyone who comes into this center for any type of service, I want to be clear about that,” said Dr. Adams.

But they will be given a card, with an ID number.

“So they can bring that back every time, or if they get stopped by the police they can show that they are in the needle exchange program and they'll feel a little bit more safer that way,” said Combs.

State and local officials know these free services won't fix the epidemic overnight, but it's a step in the right direction.

“I know the outcome's gonna be good. It's gonna take a lot of time, a lot of hard work and just remember we're gonna team up and make this thing work and our community will be better,” said Austin Mayor Doug Campbell.

In addition to providing free HIV services, the One-Stop Shop will also offer vaccinations against tetanus, hepatitis A and B and assistance enrolling in Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) Insurance.

The One-Stop Shop is located at the Community Outreach Center at 2277 W. Frontage Road, Austin, Indiana. It is operated by the Scott County Health Department and will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Center will be closed April 5, 2015 for Easter Sunday. The One-Stop Shop Information Line is (317)-605-1480.

Grace Covenance Church is also providing a free shuttle service to and from the One-Stop Shop from Austin by calling (317)-617-2223.

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