INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A new Marion County syringe exchange program was unveiled Wednesday morning.
Indiana has banned state money from being used for needle exchange programs, so the new mobile program is funded by a private grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
The mobile syringe exchange program is housed in a big, white truck with an almost clinic-like environment on the inside.
Once inside the mobile unit, addicts will be assessed for mental health and recieve basic health and infectious disease screenings.
The first stop for this truck is scheduled at Brookside Communty Church, which runs an inmate reentry program on the city’s eastside. The church sits right in the middle of an infectious disease hot spot
“The 46201 ZIP code has such a high rate of infectious disease and high drug use, so we are wanting to be part of the solution,” said Dave Cederquist of Brookside Community Church.
The creation of this program is partially driven by the spread of disease from sharing needles. According to the Marion County Public Health Department, addicts that participate in needle exchange programs are more likely to seek treatment.
Madison Weintrout of the Marion County Public Health Department understands this is not an easy sell.
“People are using drugs whether we want them to or not, and it is just not feasible to ask people to quit. We dont have the treatment capacity, even if everyone was willing, able and ready to get into treatment,” said Weintrout. “So we have to do something for the people caught in the middle between addiction and treatment.”
Weintrout says hepatitis C cases have exploded in Marion County since 2017. Almost all the cases are linked to intravenous drug use she added. There has also been a small increase in HIV cases.
“The whole purpose of this program is to prevent an HIV outbreak before it starts” said Weintrout.
The Marion County Public Health Department will also provide naloxone, which is used to treat overdoses, to addicts that visit the program.