INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Marion County launched a needle exchange program a little more than six months ago. So far, the health department says they have distributed about 10,000 syringes.
Health officials believe this tool can help people stay safe and alive.
The main goal is to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitus C among drug users. The team takes a mobile unit to two locations on the city’s east side, parking lots near the Damien Center and Brookside Community Church.
The Safe Syringe program provides syringe services free of charge to people seeking infectious disease and overdose prevention. Some of the services include syringe exchange and sharps disposal, naloxone distribution, and HIV and Hepatitus C screening.
“In 2017 in Marion county, we saw a 10-fold increase in the number of new Hepatitus C cases that were coming in. 86% of them were related directly to injection drug use,” said Madison Weintraut, program manager.
She believes they have distributed around 10,000 needles in the last 6 months and they have collected even more dirty needles.
Weintraut said people who are involved with syringe services are five times more likely to get into treatment and three times more likely to stop using drugs all together.
“With syringe service programs, we are not only distributing Naloxone but we are also teaching people safer habits,” she said. “Teaching them to go slow, teaching them that if you spend a weekend in jail your tolerance is going to be down.”
David Cederquist is the pastor of Brookeside Community Church. He called his east side neighborhood a hot spot for drug use.
“That is why we are here, that is why our church is exists,” he said. “Trap houses that exist in our neighborhood are blocks away.”
He believes 70 percent of his church members struggle with addiction. That is why Cederquist was eager to partner with the Marion County Health Department. The mobile unit parks in a lot right in front of the church once a week.
“They need the support of the medical community and the faith based community to overcome these addictions,” he said.
Cederquist said Overdose Lifeline is hosting an event on November 21 at 6:30 p.m. for anyone interested in the needle exchange mobile unit.
Services are also provided Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at:
Eagledale Health Clinic
2802 Lafayette Rd, Suite 13
Indianapolis, IN 46222
The health department hopes to expand services soon.