Commissioners put off vote on Wayne County syringe exchange


A close-up photograph of an MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine vial with a syringe in background.

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RICHMOND, Ind. (April 10, 2016) — Commissioners in eastern Indiana’s Wayne County have put off a decision on applying for a syringe exchange program.

Wayne County commissioners tabled voting on the program April 6, waiting until paperwork is done that’s to be filed with State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams. The final decision on Wayne County’s application would be made by Adams.

The issue will go before the commissioners again at their next meeting April 13, the Palladium-Item reported.

Wayne County Health Department executive director Eric Coulter said at a hearing last month that the county’s hepatitis C situation is “desperate” and that he supports having an exchange program.

Planning by Wayne County health officials for a needle exchange program started in September, after a health emergency was declared by county health officer Dr. David Keller. The program would provide clean syringes and needles to intravenous drug users.

Fayette, Madison, Monroe and Scott counties have won state approval for needle exchanges under a law that lets counties ask for approval for the programs. The law was approved last year in response to an HIV outbreak in Scott County.

Commissioners in Wayne County were also waiting on documents from program providers Reid Health and Centerstone.

Commissioner Denny Burns said he has heard constituents’ concerns about the program being put in a residential neighborhood. Burns and commission President Ken Paust agreed that Centerstone should be asked to re-examine going with such a location.

“We need to be responsive to the public,” Burns said. “Before we approve this, we have input. Afterward, we don’t.”

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters said the location being considered, which isn’t being made public by commissioners, could be best because it’s at the epicenter of heroin use. Burns said he would favor the proposed location in a residential neighborhood only if it’s proven that it’s at the epicenter.

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