ANDERSON, Ind. — An Indiana county has modified its needle exchange program to have tighter controls over the distribution of clean needles to drug addicts.
The Madison County Board of Health voted Thursday to give out clean needles to match the number of used needles that are returned, The Herald Bulletin reported . Before, addicts could receive more clean needles than the amount they returned.
“I waited two years to say anything,” said Rodney Cummings, Madison County prosecutor. “It has not been a needle exchange program; it has been a needle giveaway.”
The board also decided to remove tourniquets from the kits and to return metal drug cookers to the kit.
Cummings said tourniquets typically don’t contribute to the spread of disease, but that cookers can. Adding cookers back into the kits may discourage addicts from sharing them and decrease the spread of disease.
“The cooker is as important as the needle,” Cummings said. “I’m going to support the cooker.”
About 500 people are signed up to participate in the needle exchange program, said Stephenie Grimes, who oversees the program. She said the program has an average of 120 visits a month.
“I’m trying to be as accommodating as I can to the medical community,” Cummings said. “There are some benefits. But you have to look at what is happening in our community. Syringe possession charges have increased from 70 to 262, and the jail is overcrowded.”
Madison County is one of eight counties in Indiana that offer needle-exchange programs, which aim to discourage needle sharing and cut down on the spread of disease.
Data shows that needle exchange programs don’t increase drug use but help decrease the spread of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, said Dr. Phil Goshert, a board member.
Councilman Brent Holland has proposed an ordinance that would bar the program from using grants or financial donations to buy syringes. It would allow the program to distribute donated syringes.
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com