Needle exchange program brings hope to Madison County

(WISH Photo)

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — Can a needle exchange help a drug addict turn his or her life around?

One needle exchange participant said that it can, but statistics released by health workers show Madison County participants are not entering substance abuse treatment.

A participant agreed to speak to 24 Hour News 8 on the condition of anonymity, and asked to be referred to only as Moe.

“I shared needles,” she said. “Especially if you do it intravenously, you’re addicted. There’s nothing like it. Nothing.”

She said she injected cocaine and heroin into her body, all while facing an alcohol addiction.

Moe thought she was invincible. Until 1989.

“I was six months pregnant and I found out that I was HIV positive,” Moe said. “It was a very traumatic, trying time.”

She found treatment for her disease, her son was born healthy, but she never beat her addiction.

Sixteen years later, Moe started using the needle exchange in Madison County. Health workers connected her with a care coordinator.

“They pick me up, they take me to doctor’s appointments, court appointments,” she said. “They’ve given me food.”

Health workers also offered to help Moe get treatment for her addiction, but she hasn’t taken that step.

Last year, all 32 Madison County needle exchange participants were offered substance abuse treatment, and no one accepted that offer.

Public Health Coordinator Stephanie Grimes said she hopes to change that as participants come back to use the county’s services.

“Every time we encounter an individual we get a little closer to being ready to enter into, or looking at a referral for their treatment,” Grimes said.

Grimes said participants are taking advantage of other resources.

77 percent of last year’s needle exchange users agreed to a hepatitis C test. Health workers also connected some participants with primary care providers and HIV care.

“The needle component was, more or less, a dangling carrot to get them into treatment to stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis C,” Grimes said.

Moe’s been using the needle exchange for two months. With the county’s help, she said she’ll eventually be ready to beat the addiction that gripped her years ago.

“I wish they would have had [the needle exchange] back then,” Moe said. “It’s possible that I would not have shared needles and contracted the disease.”

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