Madison Co. increases needle exchange users with mobile unit

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — Madison County health leaders launched a new tool Wednesday in the fight against hepatitis C and HIV: a mobile needle exchange unit that will travel the area providing clean needles for drug addicts.

Officials said they hoped the mobile unit would increase participation in the weekly needle exchange, which had three participants in the first three weeks. Four people used the mobile exchange Wednesday, in the program’s fourth week, including three first-time participants.

The mobile unit will travel to users upon request. First, they have to call local health officials to set up a meeting spot.

“It’s just a different way of delivering this service. I’m anxious to see how it goes,” Stephanie Grimes of the Madison County Health Department said.

Health workers plan to send the exchange on the road once every four weeks. The goal is to keep drug addicts from sharing used needles.

Some Anderson locals have different ideas on how to fix the problem.

“I think it’s a waste of time,” Andrew Pope said of the needle exchange. “I think people just need to quit. They know exactly what it’s going to do to them.”

“Have medical-assisted detox,” Robert Boone said. “Get their lives away from addiction.”

Health officials agree that the county needs more than just a needle exchange.

That’s why participants are also offered HIV and hepatitis C testing, drug abuse counseling and other resources to help them turn their lives around.

“We feel like this program wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t have those additional resources,” Grimes said.

Grimes is telling people to keep an eye out for the logo posted in the window of the mobile unit. It’s a blue and white life preserver—one that she hopes will carry people to safety.

County health officials also announced the four stationary needle exchange locations. The department will rotate sites each Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. as follows:

  • 1st Wednesday of month: 1500 South B St. Suite 2. Elwood, IN (Dr. Saltzman’s old office)
  • 2nd Wedneday: Aspire Indiana. 2009 Brown Street, Anderson, IN
  • 3rd Wednesday: Dr. Abbott’s office. 2116 South Park Avenue, Alexandria, IN
  • 4th Wednesday: Mobile needle exchange. Participants can call health department for service.

If there is a 5th Wednesday in a month, officials will make plans for services on that day as well.

Scott County health workers reported increased participation in their needle exchange after launching a mobile unit earlier this year.

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