ANDERSON – Discussions are taking place to reinstate the needle exchange program through a local not-for-profit organization.
Madison County's needle exchange program was started in August 2015 after a local public health emergency was declared concerning an increase in the number of hepatitis C cases among intravenous drug users.
The Madison County commissioners earlier this year voted to extend the county's Health Department program for another year.
In August, the County Council voted to prohibit the use of local tax dollars to manage the program. The ordinance prohibiting the use of county funds or donations and gifts to purchase the needles and the necessary supplies was passed 5-2.
The council was being asked to approve a $15,000 appropriation which is used by the Madison County Health Department for supplies for the needle exchange program, other than the purchase of syringes. The money is being donated.
Stephenie Grimes, the public health coordinator for the Madison County Health Department, said Wednesday during a meeting of the Board of Health, the agency is still working with a nonprofit organization to take over the administration of the program.
“I’m confident they are going to accept the needle exchange,” Grimes said. “Their board is expected to vote next month.”
Grimes would not name the local organization.
She said the Health Department continues to receive texts asking about the program.
The Indiana State Department of Health guidelines allows for a county to contract with a nonprofit to operate a needle exchange program.
“In this instance, the county or local health department must take official action to approve the nonprofit as evidenced by a board resolution or equivalent,” the guidelines read. “Relationships with third party nonprofits should be outlined in detail in a contract.”
That contract requires the nonprofit to comply with all of the state guidelines for the operation of the program and reporting requirements to the Indiana State Board of Health.
Jennifer O’Malley, communications director for the Indiana State Department of Health, said ISDH has not been notified of any decisions regarding the operation of the Madison County program.
“Since those decisions are made locally, that process needs to play out first before we can provide guidance about the state’s role,” she said.
Grimes said Friday there will have to be a contract between the Board of Health and the nonprofit.
“They will operate independently,” she said. “The contract requires them to follow the state guidelines and reporting requirements.”
Rebecca Sanders, infectious disease coordinator for the Health Department, said that during its two years the needle exchange program served 536 people who made 1,674 visits or engagements with the services being provided.
She said since December there were 793 referrals, of which 69 were for substance abuse treatment.
During the two years the program in Madison County distributed 236,426 syringes and properly disposed of 128,404 needles.