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Monroe County Health Department to Renew Needle Exchange Program

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The Monroe County Health Department is looking to continue operating its needle exchange program.

County Health Department Director Penny Caudill says the program is up for re-approval by the Monroe County Commissioners tomorrow. Caudill says the first step in continuing the county’s nearly two-year old program is to ask Commissioners Julie Thomas, Amanda Barge, and Patrick Stoffers to allow the health department to continue combating the Hepatitis C and HIV epidemic.

While it’s expected that the Monroe County Commissioners will vote to re-approve the operation of a needle exchange program, Caudill says she’s ready to make the case that more work needs to be done to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

Caudill says, under the current system, which turns two years old in February, the Monroe County Health Department compensates the non-profit Indiana Recovery Alliance in Bloomington, who operates the county’s needle exchange program.

Yesterday afternoon, Tippecanoe County Commissioners voted to re-approve Lafayette’s needle exchange program. The Associated Press reports that county commissioners voted two to one to continue the program.

Public health advocates were worried last week, when a Tippecanoe County Commissioner signaled he would not vote to approve the program; Two of the state’s fewer than ten needle exchange programs have been shut down this year, including Lawrence County’s Bedford exchange, which was also run by the Indiana Recovery Alliance.

Tippecanoe County Nursing Supervisor Khala Hostedler says the needle exchange program faced criticism by community members who didn’t want the exchange in residential areas.

Hostedler says Tippecanoe’s needle exchange program was delayed due to officials trying to find a location for the exchange that wouldn’t offend residents. Ultimately, it was decided to run the exchange out of the county’s health department.

Indiana Recovery Alliance Founder and Director Chris Abert says the Tippecanoe County Commissioner’s decision to reapprove Lafayette’s needle exchange program bodes well for other exchanges in the state.

The Monroe County Commissioners will meet tomorrow morning at 10 in the county courthouse. They are expected to reapprove Monroe County’s needle exchange program

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