Council approves needle-exchange program to help curb Marion County’s hep C epidemic

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The City-County Council unanimously approved a proposal Monday night to create Marion County’s first needle-exchange program.

Marion County Public Health Department Director Virginia A. Caine proposed the Safe Syringe Access and Support (SSAS) Program after declaring a public health epidemic on May 17 due to the county’s alarming increase in hepatitis C cases and a potential surge in HIV cases.

“The City-County Council has shown that it welcomes and supports the implementation of this program knowing it will greatly improve the public health of Marion County at no added cost to taxpayers,” said Councilor Vop Osili, a co-sponsor of the proposal.

In addition to the syringe exchange, the program will provide a number of support services, including HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening, referral for substance use disorder and mental health treatment, immunization access and more.

First, the health department says it’s focused on securing the details regarding the mobile unit operation it will use to deliver services, including identifying the locations where the unit is needed most.

Mobile sites will be based on overdose deaths by location, residences of decedents, Indianapolis EMS use of Narcan, and recommendations by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

“Our team is grateful for the council’s approval of this program and wants to get started immediately to implement these services that this community needs and deserves,” said Dr. Caine. “The program is more than a safe syringe access program and will aim to address a range of needs necessary to successfully reduce hepatitis C and HIV cases in the county.”

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