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Needle Exchange Programs Could End Summer 2021

Steve Burns

  Needle exchange programs in Indiana could be discontinued as early as summer 2021.

This comes as Bill 207 died on the floor Tuesday. The bill proposed lifting the expiration date on a 2015 initiative which allowed local health departments to run needle exchange programs.

Senator Jim Merritt authored Bill 207. He says that even though the bill terminating the expiration date of needle exchange programs died, he hopes to find another way to extend those services.

“There are house bills and possibly senate bills that are going over the house of representatives that we might be able to mend the language into,” Merritt says. 

He says adding language onto a passed bill could extend the life of needle exchanges an extra year, giving him more time to get a bill passed that would lift the expiration date on the program all together.

Merritt says many people at Tuesday’s session mentioned the need for more wrap around services for people living with addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control using sterile needles reduces the risk of getting and transmitting an infection and helps prevent outbreaks.

When Bill 207 was put to the floor for discussion, Senator Jean Breaux spoke about the need for more information on the success of needle exchange.

"To stop doing the program now, would seriously in my opinion, curtail the opportunity to get the information we need to determine whether or not this is a successful program," she says. "To cut it off midstream will defeat the whole purpose of why we instituted its program to begin with."

One of the places where a needle exchange program operates is Scott County, where there was an HIV outbreak in 2015.