LAFAYETTE — Tippecanoe County Health Department is awaiting the return of 2,148 syringes supplied as part of its needle exchange program, according to a report obtained by the Journal & Courier.

As of Sept. 31, the most recent date for which data were available, the needle exchange had served 83 people and had supplied 4,475 syringes, of which 2,327 — or 52 percent — were returned since the program opened its doors in August, according to a quarterly report submitted to the Indiana State Department of Health.  

The report was furnished after a public records request and a two-week investigation by the J&C, which followed a Lafayette man addicted to heroin through his first two visits to the needle exchange program.

Jeremy Adler, Tippecanoe County's health officer, said "the rather large discrepancy" is "pretty typical" for a young program.

"I would expect that gap that you see right now — the difference between the number of syringes out and the number returned — that gap is going to shrink over time as the program ages because you'll have a lower ratio of new to returning participants," Adler said. "You'll be more in a pure exchange mode, which is more of a steady state." 

Some aspects of the program have been opposed by mayors, police chiefs and other officials in Lafayette and West Lafayette, who have called for a mandated one-to-one exchange to ensure dirty needles do not wind up in parks or other public places.

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