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Marion County takes needle exchanges to the streets

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Posted at 3:10 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 16:39:26-04

INDIANAPOLIS—The Marion County Health Department is taking a unique approach to combat illegal drug use and help
addicts with the many problems they face.

A mobile unit truck will be used as part of the county's Safe Syringe Access and Support Program.

County Health Department Director Virginia Caine proposed the program last year due to what she called the county's "alarming" increase in hepatitis C cases and a potential surge in HIV cases.

It was approved by the City-County Council.

Dr. Caine reported a 1,000 percent increase in the number of hepatitis C cases between 2013 and 2017, a majority of which are blamed on injection drug use.

Thus, the need for a needle exchange.

The mobile unit will provide that and more.

It will offer support services, including HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening, referrals for addicts trying to get off drugs. immunizations, and mental health services.

"The time is now for Marion County to step forward and take action for the health of our residents and the community, said Dr. Caine. It will take a multi-level approach such as this program to slow the spread of infectious diseases, get more people into drug treatment, and provide necessary services to address this epidemic."

Starting later in April, the mobile unit will travel to areas of the county where drug use is a major problem and be there on fixed days and times.

Initial sites will be the parking lot of Brookside Community Church and the parking lot of the Damien Center.

"The Safe Syringe Access and Support program will fill a critical need in our community, protect more Hoosiers from hepatitis C and HIV and connect individuals with the support they need to get on the path to recovery," said Claire Fiddian-Green, President and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which awarded a three-year $1.45 million grant to the county for the program.