ANDERSON – Madison County is starting the process to negotiate for a local not-for-profit organization to resume the needle exchange program.
The program was started in August 2015 by the Madison County Health Department. Last August, the Madison County Council voted to prohibit the use of local tax dollars to manage the program.
Stephanie Grimes, administrator with the Health Department, informed the Madison County Board of Health on Wednesday that a not-for-profit wants to take over the program.
The local organization was not identified, pending a vote by its board.
The Board of Health voted to begin negotiations on a contract for the operation of the needle exchange program.
Grimes said the not-for-profit board is expected to vote on taking over the program later this month.
She said the Madison County commissioners would then have to sign a contract with the not-for-profit.
“The Madison County Health Department will be hands off,” Grimes said. “It’s all up to the not-for-profit.”
She said the organization will report directly to the Indiana State Department of Health.
“The organization already does a lot of HIV and hepatitis C work in the county,” Grimes said. “They would apply for grant funding.”
Stephen Wright, Madison County’s health officer, said he was glad someone was taking it over. He said the not-for-profit has a good reputation.
If a contract is approved by the county commissioners, the Indiana State Department of Health has to be notified of the change of the operation from the Madison County Health Department to the new entity.
The program was implemented in 2015 because a public health emergency was declared over concerns of the spread of hepatitis C and HIV in the county.
Grimes said since the program ended in August only seven people have been tested for hepatitis C in the county.
“People are going back to sharing needles,” she said.
The county commissioners last year voted to extend the program through June.
“We approved the needle exchange program through June,” John Richwine, president of the Madison County Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday. “This is a formality.”
Richwine said he supports a not-for-profit taking over the needle exchange program and expects it to be extended beyond June.
The Madison County Council last August adopted an ordinance prohibiting the use of county funds or donations and gifts to purchase the needles and the necessary supplies.
The Indiana State Department of Health guidelines allows for a county to contract with a nonprofit to operate a needle exchange program.
“In this instance, the county or local health department must take official action to approve the nonprofit as evidenced by a board resolution or equivalent,” the guidelines read. “Relationships with third-party nonprofits should be outlined in detail in a contract.”
That contract requires the nonprofit to comply with all of the state guidelines for the operation of the program and reporting requirements to the Indiana State Board of Health.
During the two years the program in Madison County distributed 236,426 syringes and properly disposed of 128,404 needles, according to the Health Department.