ANDERSON — Madison County’s commissioners will consider a two-year contract with Aspire Indiana to start a needle exchange program in the county.
The commissioners will conduct a public hearing starting at 10 a.m. today to receive input on a proposed resolution that would authorize Aspire to operate the county’s needle exchange program through June 5, 2020.
Included in the resolution was a letter from Madison County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Wright stating that the county is facing a hepatitis C epidemic and leads the state in acute cases.
Jerry Landers, executive director of Aspire Indiana, said the agency was approached last year about taking over the program and did five months of research.
“We discovered that the best practice was for a harm reduction program,” he said.
“No one wants a needle exchange program,” Landers added, “but we believe there is a need.”
He said Aspire intends to engage participants in the program and offer treatment options.
“It will be a true needle exchange program, as near 100 percent as possible,” Landers said.
The exchange rate of syringes was criticized by members of the Madison County Council before voting to end the program managed by the Madison County Health Department last August.
In response to a question from Commissioner Mike Phipps, Landers said Aspire is looking at using clear disposal containers and leaning toward weighing the syringes to determine how many a participant can receive.
He said Aspire is also looking at marking the syringes so they can’t be traced, either by color or a sticker.
“We want to make sure people are following the rules,” Landers said.
Aspire also plans to track participants in the program to determine the rate of success to get people into treatment programs.
“This is a full-blown epidemic,” Landers said of the problem in Madison County and nationally. “The resources are being overwhelmed.”
Last month, the Aspire Health board of directors voted to begin the harm reduction program including the needle exchange aspect.
The program will have an emphasis on testing for HIV and hepatitis C, a syringe exchange, vaccinations for hepatitis C and B, and an outpatient detoxification plan.