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Democrats push statewide needle exchange

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Will a needle exchange in Scott County solve the health crisis caused by an HIV outbreak there?

It’s a question state lawmakers must answer in the final days of the 2015 General Assembly.

Democrats in the State Senate Thursday criticized the approach being taken to the crisis in Scott County by the Pence administration.

It’s an approach that calls for a 30-day needle exchange that can be renewed in that county only.

Democratic Leader Tim Lanane threw his support behind a bill that would permit 23 counties with the highest rates of Hepatitis C to create their own needle exchanges.

It’s a reaction to the 135 cases of HIV that have appeared in Scott County as a result of needle sharing by intravenous drug users.

Lanane and other democrats want a statewide approach to the problem.

“There’s a three part comprehensive approach that’s needed to address this crisis,” said Lanane, “and that is testing, treatment, and needle exchange.”

But the Pence Administration is opposed and so are GOP leaders in the General Assembly.

“There is a Commissioner of Health that’s appointed to be in charge of these issues,’ said House Speaker Brian Bosma, “and that’s where I think the decision making, ultimate decision making should lie.”

Others think the needle exchange program is unknown territory.

“Going to a statewide program when we really don’t know what we’re getting into,” said Senate GOP Leader David Long, “might be hasty.”

Sen. Lanane also pointed out that the State Board of Health has reverted $7 million to the state general fund in the last two years, money that he suggested could be spent battling the problems in Scott County and elsewhere.

Already the Board of Health in Allen County has given its approval to a needle exchange there if the General Assembly grants the authority to do so.