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Former hep C patient urges addicts to use needle exchange

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) – A former hepatitis C patient is urging drug addicts to use Madison County’s new needle exchange program.

On the first day of the exchange, no one used the service.

The services will open again, for a second time, on Wednesday.

A former patient spoke with 24-Hour News 8 on the condition that no photographs were taken of her face and that she was referred to simply as Shelly.

“I thought I was going to die,” Shelly said of her fight with hepatitis C.

Shelly, an Anderson local, has been clean for eight months. But before she stopped using drugs, she contracted the disease.

“It was due to sharing a needle,” she said. “It just affected me so much that I was in shock.”

That was before the Madison County Health Department had a needle exchange, a program that she says would have kept her from getting hepatitis C.

“I wouldn’t have gotten sick. And Lord knows who else would have been affected by it, because I’m sure they didn’t get tested,” said Shelly.

Now she’s taking to Facebook, reaching old contacts and doing whatever she can to spread a message to people who are still using.

“I know that the drug you are on is very hard to get off and you’re very scared. You’re afraid that you’re going to get in trouble, but you’re not. Just please come and stop the spread of the disease,” Shelly said.

The four locations of the needle exchanges aren’t being made public, but Kellie Kelley of the health department said county workers told Shelly and others about the sites. She says they’ll spread the word to people who need it.

“We are working diligently to develop trust and make ourselves open to those who need us,” Kelley said.

“They’re not going to get the cops called on them,” Shelly said.

Shelly said county health workers aren’t trying to lock people up; they’re trying to save lives. That’s something she learned firsthand, when they helped her through a dark time.

“I know when you’re high, you’re not thinking and you don’t care. But now that they have programs, I do believe they have to come in and get help,” said Shelly.

People who need to know the locations can call the Madison County Health Department and they’ll tell people where to go and when.

On site, workers will also offer drug abuse counseling and help enrolling in healthcare.