Monroe Co. declares public health emergency amid hepatitis C epidemic

(WISH Photo)

MONROE COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – A public health emergency has been declared for Monroe County, according to state officials.

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams declared the emergency order to reduce the spread of hepatitis C by opening a syringe exchange.

Monroe County Health Department workers said they plan to open the mobile needle exchange next month.

“Monroe County is experiencing an epidemic of hepatitis C tied to intravenous drug use,” said Dr. Adams. “The syringe exchange is part of a comprehensive approach that will connect residents with treatment, healthcare and other services critical to improving their health and halting the spread of disease.”

The declaration will run through Dec. 21, 2016. Fayette, Madison and Scott counties also previously declared public health emergencies.

According to a release, by declaring this public health emergency, the state health commissioner agrees to the laws of the local health officer and county commissioners.

The implementation of the needle exchange program is now up to local officials to put in place. The release says  that no federal or state funding is used for syringe exchange programs.

County health workers plan to send the mobile unit into the community at least once a week. Exact locations and says haven’t been determined. Participants will also be offered resources to get treatment for their addictions.

Timothy Pitcock is a former heroin addict living in Monroe County who said it will take more than a needle exchange to fix the problem.

“Once you’re on that track there is nothing, nothing can stop you until someone either sends you help or God sends you help,” Pitcock said.

According to Pitcock, he stopped using heroin four years ago with the help religion and a local treatment program called Peter to Paul. He said he’s praying that the people who use the exchange also seek treatment.

For questions call Kathy Hewett at the Monroe County Health Department at 812-349-2722. You can also visit the Indiana State Department of Health website.

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