Monroe County declares emergency needed for needle exchange

FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, new needles which clients can get as part of the needle exchange program at the Austin Community Outreach Center are displayed in Austin, Ind. Indiana's health commissioner approved a one-year needle-exchange program Thursday, May 21, 2015, for a rural county at the center of the state's largest HIV outbreak, an epidemic that's being driven by needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. The southeastern Indiana county had been operating a temporary needle-exchange under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Pence that will expire Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana county that’s facing a surge in hepatitis C infections tied to intravenous drug use is one step closer to seeking state approval for a needle-exchange program.

The Monroe County commissioners voted unanimously Friday to endorse a public health emergency the county’s health officer declared two weeks ago.

The Herald-Times reports that vote was the final step needed before county officials draft a needle-exchange proposal and ask Indiana’s state health commissioner for approval. Needle exchanges provide IV drug users with clean syringe to prevent needle-sharing that spread diseases.

Needle exchanges are allowed under a state law approved in April amid an HIV outbreak centered in Scott County that’s the largest in state history.

Indiana has so far has approved needle exchanges in Scott, Madison and Fayette counties.

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