Syringes fill a large sharps container at the Indiana Recovery Alliance at 118 S. Rogers St. in 2016. (Abby Tonsing / Herald-Times)
Syringes fill a large sharps container at the Indiana Recovery Alliance at 118 S. Rogers St. in 2016. (Abby Tonsing / Herald-Times)
Monroe County will continue its syringe exchange program for at least another two years.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday voted to extend the program that started in February 2016. Monroe County Health Administrator Penny Caudill said the purpose of the syringe services program, sometimes referred to as a needle exchange program, is to provide harm reduction and disease prevention services to the community.

“Yes, (syringe services programs) can be controversial, but I don’t see any other way to do this and to do it as successfully,” Monroe County Commissioner Julie Thomas said.

Monroe County’s program is about more than exchanging dirty needles for clean ones, Thomas said — it is a response to a public health crisis, and it helps reduce stigma.

Caudill said since 2010, the number of hepatitis C infections has more than tripled across the state. Monroe County was not immune to the rising number of hepatitis C cases, she said, and in response, officials sought approval for a syringe services program to help reduce the spread of hepatitis and HIV. Individuals who use intravenous drugs are at a high risk of transmitting hepatitis B, C and HIV, according to information from the health department.

When the county applied to the state for approval of the program in 2015, the number of hepatitis C cases reported in Monroe County were more than 50% higher than the number of cases reported in 2009, according to a letter from Caudill to the commissioners.
© 2019 HeraldTimesOnline, Bloomington, IN