ANDERSON — Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings and the county Board of Health have disagreed on a syringe exchange program, but they are in agreement that more education is needed on the dangers of heroin and meth addiction.
The health board on Thursday made several changes to the two-year-old needle exchange program, including more controls on the distribution of needles.
“The needle exchange program is part of an overall plan,” Cummings said. “Education is at the top of the list.”
Cummings said he is working on an education program to be implemented in Madison County that will include videos on social media and be shown in all county schools.
He is also working with judges to rule that everyone charged with possession of an illegal drug would have to get a vivitrol evaluation before being released from the jail.
Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time.
Cummings also wants more treatment options for addicts, noting there are three free centers in Indianapolis.
“We will ultimately have free treatment for heroin addicts in our community,” he said. “The local hospitals are concerned.”
Dr. Phil Goshert, who serves on the Board of Health, said evidence suggests needle exchange programs reduce the number of hepatitis C and HIV cases, adding hepatitis C treatment costs $1,000 a day.
“There will be a cost to the community and families,” he said of treatment. “We need treatment programs.”
Dr. Troy Abbott, president of the health board, said the community has to educate our kids to the dangers of opioid addiction.
During Thursday's health board meeting, Abbott made a motion to determine if some the Health Department’s Tobacco Cessation Program funding could be used to help produce videos.
Stephenie Grimes, who oversees the county health department’s needle exchange program, said there have been discussions about turning over the program to another agency.
“Our goal has been to get the program started and turn it over to someone else,” she said.
Steve Ford, administrator of the health department, said since the start of the program there have been discussions on whether the department would continue to run it forever.
“It’s not sustainable,” he said. “She (Grimes) has other responsibilities that have not been able to be performed.”
Of the seven needle exchanges in Indiana, only Monroe County has turned over administration of the program to another agency.