Reactions mixed to Lafayette needle exchange site

Tippecanoe County Health Department/ (WLFI Photo)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A temporary location for Tippecanoe County’s Syringe Exchange Program will open Friday.

It will be at the county health department on North Sixth Street in Lafayette.

Danielle Martin can see the health department from her balcony. Martin knows the program is designed to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and she wants people who participate to know they’re welcome.

“I really honestly believe that people have value and honoring that value and giving them that dignity is a really good first step to just loving people well,” Martin said.

But not everyone supports the location at the county health department; there’s a local park down the street.

“This is where kids go; it’s a park, it’s a community, and this is why our community don’t feel safe,” Lafayette resident Nasheema Stewart said.

Athaya Long took her kids to the park Wednesday and wasn’t happy about the news of a needle exchange program nearby.

“They get to throwing the needles all in the park and stuff. Kids could pick up the needles and get hepatitis C that’s on the needles, anything,” Long said.

“We understand your concerns,” said Khala Hochstedler, the county health department’s nursing supervisor. “But at the end of the day, we have to stop. It’s a public health emergency and our hep C numbers are continuing to rise.”

She said this location isn’t permanent.

“We’re still looking for other locations,” Hochstedler said. “We still want to do a mobile unit so that we can meet other people’s needs in the community, but we had to get started.”

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said he does not support this temporary location.

Roswarski has been against putting it in that neighborhood from the beginning.

But he said he understands and respects the heath department’s decision.

He’s going to continue working with health officials to find a better spot for the program.

But for now, it will be located at the county health department, 629 N. Sixth St. The hours will be from 1-3:30 p.m. Fridays.

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