Southern Indiana’s Monroe County extends needle exchange

FILE - In this March 24, 2016 photo, a nurse for eastern Indiana's Fayette County holds one of the syringes provided to intravenous drug users taking part in the county's state-approved needle exchange program at the county courthouse in Connersville, Ind. The effort is in response to a hepatitis C outbreak among IV drug users. In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, May 11, 2017, hepatitis C infections have nearly tripled since 2010 _ an increase mainly due to the heroin epidemic. (AP Photo/Rick Callahan)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Southern Indiana’s Monroe County will be continuing its needle-exchange program even as a couple other counties are dropping their exchanges amid concerns about contributing to the habits of illegal intravenous drug users.

Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge tells The (Bloomington) Herald-Times that she believes the program providing clean syringes helped prevent the spread of diseases among drug users. The county commissioners voted to continue the program through 2019.

Monroe County started its exchange in 2016. Indiana began authorizing the exchanges in 2015 following an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana’s Scott County linked to needle sharing.

Officials in Lawrence and Madison counties voted recently to end their programs. Seven counties have active exchanges.

Organizers say Monroe County’s program has about 1,600 participants, with some coming from other counties.