Commissioners to consider authorization of syringe exchange program

Ken de la Bastide, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·2 min read

Feb. 15—ANDERSON — Madison County officials are expected to vote on the reauthorization of a syringe exchange program.

The Madison County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the syringe exchange program Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the council chambers of the Madison County Government Center.

The Madison County program ended last June.

"We should go back through the public hearing process to re-establish the program," County Attorney Jeff Graham said at the January meeting.

The Indiana General Assembly is currently considering legislation to extend the state authorization for the syringe exchange program through June 30, 2030.

The current state authorization expires on July 1 and could put an end to programs in nine counties.

Barbara Scott, CEO of Aspire Indiana Health, asked if the syringe exchange program is approved by the commissioners that it be extended for two years.

Originally, the commissioners had discussed extending the program through July 1.

Scott asked that Madison County extend the program through July 1, 2023.

Commissioner John Richwine said the county will look at both options.

The county's syringe exchange program started in 2015 through the Madison County Health Department.

After the county council voted not to fund the program with local tax dollars, Aspire Health Indiana restarted the program in 2018 and it ceased operating last June.

Julie Foltz, director of infectious disease for Aspire Indiana Health, said previously the local program had 287 regular participants before ending.

Letters in support of extending the program were submitted by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Dr. Stephen Wright, the county's health officer at the commissioners' meeting on Jan. 19.

Shane Hatchett, with the Indiana State Department of Health, said the state agency is a strong supporter of starting the program in Madison County.

He said it's important part for the prevention of the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in the county.

Hatchett said the county's program started in 2015 and the syringe exchange program is a small part of the overall program to save lives.

He said the syringe exchange site is an important location for people needing health care, food and shelter and substance abuse programs.

"It's a lifeline to the resources and options in their own community," Hatchett said.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.