In­di­ana nee­dle ex­change OK’d un­der new state law

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Andis Robeznieks

In­di­ana’s ru­ral Scott County, cur­rently the epi­cen­ter of an HIV out­break, re­ceived ap­proval last week to op­er­ate the first needle­ex­change pro­gram al­lowed un­der a new state law.

A nee­dle ex­change had al­ready been es­tab­lished un­der a tem­po­rary public-health-emer­gency ex­ec­u­tive or­der is­sued by Repub­li­can Gov. Mike Pence. How­ever, the state’s epi­demi­ol­o­gist, Pam Pon­tones, said last week that the or­der was set to ex­pire May 24 and Pence would not re­new it. Pence had pre­vi­ously over­rid­den state law and his own anti-drug poli­cies in an ef­fort to help con­tain HIV in­fec­tions in the eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed com­mu­nity in southeast In­di­ana.

Un­der a new law that took ef­fect im­me­di­ately af­ter Pence signed it May 5, county public health de­part­ments can op­er­ate nee­dle ex­changes for one year when there is a de­clared public health emer­gency in­volv­ing dru­gre­lated HIV or hep­ati­tis C out­breaks. In Scott County, the in­tent is to have a smooth tran­si­tion from a state op­er­a­tion to lo­cal con­trol with­out any in­ter­rup­tion in ser­vice.

Since open­ing March 30, a com­mu­nity out­reach cen­ter in Austin has col­lected 14,981 used nee­dles and dis­trib­uted 16,952 new ones. There are now 159 con­firmed cases and one pre­lim­i­nary di­ag­no­sis of HIV in Scott County, with 95% of those cases re­lated to shar­ing nee­dles while in­ject­ing the painkiller oxy­mor­phone. Nearly 90% of those in­di­vid­u­als are also in­fected with hep­ati­tis C. Pre­vi­ously, only three HIV cases had been re­ported over the past four years.


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