Almost two years after its initial approval, Fayette County’s needle exchange program received an extra two more years this week.
Fayette County Commissioners, at their meeting Tuesday morning, voted unanimously to extend the county’s needle exchange program for another two years.
The program initially was approved by the state of Indiana – specifically the Indiana State Department of Health – back in August 2015, for a period of two years, and officially began operation in November 2014, as a way to try to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C and other infectious disease throughout Fayette County. It was due for renewal next month.Paula Maupin, nurse for the Fayette County Health Department and head of the needle exchange program, approached commissioners seeking their approval for extending the program.
“With the passing of House Enrolled Act 1438, it made it possible for the county and municipalities to approve syringe exchanges and harm reduction programs for no more than two years,” she told commissioners. “So today, with the continuation of the opioid epidemic, Hepatitis C still seems to be a big threat in Fayette County. So I am here to request approval for a two-year period for our harm reduction, syringe exchange program.”
The program provides clean needles and supplies for intravenous drug users, which they exchange their used needles and supplies for, along with helping drug users find rehabilitation treatment and get signed up for health insurance, among other efforts.
“I probably have 10 people in treatment right now, and three in recovery,” Maupin said. “I have one who keeps me posted fairly regularly about his recovery. We’ve gotten people hooked up with insurance, diagnosed some people with Hepatitis C and gotten them treatment.”
Maupin said currently 81 individuals utilize the needle exchange program, which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Fayette County Health Department, and the county has received 19,048 syringes during the program’s tenure, while dispersing 20,220.
She added that the discrepancy is due to the program offering 20 clean needles to first-time participants who do bring used needles with them.
The program is also making a difference in the cases of Hepatitis C within the county, Maupin continued.
“Last year, we saw a decrease,” she said. “This year, I believe, it might be up a little bit. It’s not any higher than it was in 2015, but I think it might be a little higher than last year, and I believe that’s because of awareness and there’s a lot more places for people to get tested. People know it’s a lot more of a concern.”