INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – For the first time, there is a needle exchange program in Marion County.
Health officials hope this will help combat the dramatic outbreaks of hepatitis C and the potential surge in HIV cases.
The program will be administered by a mobile unit that will travel to different parts of the county. It begins next week in the 46210 ZIP code on the east side, the region most affected by the outbreak.
The mobile unit will visit Damien Center Wednesdays and Fridays of the Brookside Community Church.
David Cederquist, pastor of Brookside Community Church, describes the neighborhood as "at the heart of it" – the absolute zero for problems related to injecting drug use.
"Our neighborhood is full of trapping houses, drug traffickers, users from other counties to buy from us, so the problem is extreme," said Cederquist.
That's why he jumped on the opportunity to be part of the needle exchange program. He said his church was already doing a lot of programs involving re-education and reintegration.
He said the program "allows people to use needles safely in important ways to fight the epidemic and infectious diseases".
Madison Weintraut of the Marion County Department of Health is responsible for the needle exchange program. She and two other people will be on site when the unit goes out of service.
"This will bring the necessary services to those who are often left behind and forgotten," she said. "We can make a mobile unit go to high-risk neighborhoods where it uses and delivers services, which increases the chances that we can provide 100% coverage to those who need it." "
In addition to the needle exchange, the mobile unit will also provide health screens, vaccinations, tips and referrals for addiction treatment and mental health.
Mike, a man who participates in the Brookside Community Church's recovery program, is encouraged by this program.
Dependent almost all his life, Mike has been dealing with heroin for 13 years. He said about the needle exchange program: "I think it's safe as well, but it also builds trust in the community … only when these people really want to have it." help, they can get that confidence. "
Mike added that he also thought that would make the neighborhood safer.
"It will stop the diseases and prevent children from taking the risk of contracting these diseases, because people throw (used needles) on the ground, I have seen them everywhere in the neighborhood," he said.
Marion County is the ninth county of Indiana to launch a needle exchange program. Scott County was the first in 2015.
Given that state law does not allow the use of tax revenue for the purchase of syringes or supplies, a $ 1.45 million grant from the Richard Foundation Mr. Fairbanks will cover this cost.
As the program begins with just two mobile sites, health officials hope to add two more by the end of the year.