RICHMOND — While other Indiana counties end their needle exchange programs, Wayne County's program expands and, according to health department leaders, achieves its goal.
That goal is to combat the spread of hepatitis C and HIV in the county.
"For us this is a public health issue," said Eric Coulter, the chief executive officer and executive director of the Wayne County Health Department and Wayne County Community Health Clinic. "For our goal, I think it is doing well."
The exchange began during August 2016 as the county attempted to deal with elevated numbers of hepatitis C and HIV patients. The diseases can spread through the sharing of needles used to inject illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.
"It's successfully doing what we set out to do," Coulter said.
When 2017 began, nine Indiana counties ran needle exchange programs; however, Madison and Lawrence counties have opted to end their programs.
"Those communities make those decisions, but they're losing sight of the issues," Coulter said. "You can put your head in the sand or deal with them."
Wayne County's exchange program, on the other hand, expanded its program from monthly to weekly beginning in July. It originally varied the hours by week, but Kimberly Flanigan, the supervisor of operations for the health department, said consistent hours work better. The exchange now is 3 to 5 p.m. ev