MADISON COUNTY (WISH) — The second needle exchange program in the state begins Wednesday, this time in Madison County.
Earlier this year, Scott County started a needle exchange program to combat the HIV outbreak there. More than 25,000 needles have been handed out since March. At least 169 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Scott County since the winter.
In Madison County, health officials say the rising number of Hepatitis C cases could indicate a future HIV outbreak and they want to get ahead of it.
Exchange sites will rotate throughout the county to locations in Elwood, Alexandria and Anderson. It will be a four-week rotation happening on Wednesdays with two weeks spent in Anderson. There is also a mobile-unit that will be used for the program.
The goal is to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C among I-V drug users. From 2013 to 2014 the number of Hepatitis C cases doubled. There were 130 cases reported. This year the county is on pace to match or even exceed that number. Madison County officials are calling it a public health emergency.
Health officials will not only provide clean needles to participants, but also offer disease prevention education, Hepatitis and HIV testing, access to substance abuse treatment counseling and referral and health insurance navigation.
They say the program will continue until mid-June 2016 and at that point the county will consider whether or not to reapply to the state for another year.
If you or someone you know wants to use the needle exchange program, you can contact the Madison County Health Department for the exact location and hours of the weekly site. Call Kellie Kelley or Stephanie Grimes at 765-641-9523. The department staff say they do not want to publish those locations, because they worry it will deter IV drug users from participating.