Clark Co. commissioners approve needle exchange program, now needs state approval
CLARK COUNTY. Ind. (WDRB) -- Clark County Commissioners unanimously approved the implementation of a needle exchange program Thursday night, now the decision goes to the state for final approval.
The decision comes after officials say an HIV and Hepatitis C epidemic was declared in the County.
It's an epidemic Carolyn King knows all too well.
“It’s affected my own life because we lost a grandchild to overdose, a heroin overdose,” said King.
Her granddaughter died in March. She and several other people came to support a needle exchange program during a public hearing at a Clark County Commissioners meeting. Not only is it a personal matter to her, but professional one as well, working directly with the HIV crisis in Scott County.
“It's helped reduce the number of new infections which is the main purpose of it, but its also helped people get into treatment,” said King.
She hopes to see those same results in Clark County now that commissioners have approved the needle exchange.
A public comment hearing was held Thursday night to ask citizens what they thought about starting a needle exchange program and all comments were in favor of the implementation.
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Kevin Burke says the latest numbers from the state are alarming.
“We had 25 percent more HIV compared to the state average and 30 percent more Hepatitis,” said Dr. Burke.
In 2014, Burke says 58 people died from a drug overdose. This year, Burke says the county is on track to have 60 or 70 deaths.
Sheriff Jamey Noel said in the meeting he would normally be opposed to a needle exchange program, but in light of the current situation it is an issue.
Clark County is close to the big city of Louisville, but it's also bordering Scott County -- the center of an epidemic where 175 people have tested positive for HIV.
No one opposed the program in the public comment meeting Thursday night. Dr. Burke says it will make the community safer and save money in the long run.
“It will cost about three quarters of a million for their health care and a quarter of a million for social welfare benefits that typically come because they usually go on welfare, become disabled from their disease,” said Dr. Burke.
Some questions still remain like how the county will pay for the program and how long it will last, but those details will be worked out in the coming months.
Once commissioners send their resolution to the state it should be approved in a matter of days.
Burke says getting the program up and running will take several months.
The plan will then need to be approved by the Indiana State Department of Health.
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