Monroe County begins syringe exchange program

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MONROE COUNTY, Ind. (February 14, 2016) –Volunteers in Monroe County ran the county’s first needle exchange program Sunday aimed to limit the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

State health officials declared a public health emergency in December for the rapid increase of hepatitis C cases. This makes Monroe County the fourth county in the state to have an syringe exchange program.

“People are five times more likely to get treatment coming in through a needle exchange program any other social service,” Indiana Recovery Alliance Project Coordinator Christopher Abert said. “They also showed less law enforcement officers will be accidentally stuck where there’s a needle exchange program, as well as decreased HIV, hepatitis C rates and decreased visits to emergency rooms.”

Abert founded the Indiana Recovery Alliance in Bloomington a little more than a year ago with a group of concerned residents. In that time, the organization has had many programs aimed to help drug addicts in the community including providing training and distribution of Naloxone, the opiate overdose reversal drug.

Abert’s agency is the only non-profit in the state to be chosen to to run a needle exchange program, which he said could be an advantage.

“We built a rapport with a population that’s highly stigmatized and criminalized and built trust,” Abert said. “So in that sense, we might be a little more effective sometimes than a government institution doing the same work.”

The exchange Sunday ran from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. out of the agency’s mobile unit.

The organization is working with participants to set regular hours based on their needs. To see when the next exchange is go to the Indiana Recovery Alliance’s website or Facebook page.

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