Public health emergency declared in Allen County

FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, new needles which clients can get as part of the needle exchange program at the Austin Community Outreach Center are displayed in Austin, Ind. Indiana's health commissioner approved a one-year needle-exchange program Thursday, May 21, 2015, for a rural county at the center of the state's largest HIV outbreak, an epidemic that's being driven by needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. The southeastern Indiana county had been operating a temporary needle-exchange under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Pence that will expire Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, new needles which clients can get as part of the needle exchange program at the Austin Community Outreach Center are displayed in Austin, Ind. Indiana's health commissioner approved a one-year needle-exchange program Thursday, May 21, 2015, for a rural county at the center of the state's largest HIV outbreak, an epidemic that's being driven by needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. The southeastern Indiana county had been operating a temporary needle-exchange under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Pence that will expire Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The following is a release from the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, presented verbatim

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (10/06/2016). – The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has declared a public health emergency for Allen County, allowing the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health to establish a syringe services program (SSP) in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

The Department of Health, including community partners Positive Resource Connection and Park Center, will open the SSP in early November at 519 Oxford Street in Fort Wayne.

Along with providing new, clean needles and sharps disposal containers, the SSP will also provide free HIV and hepatitis C testing, and make referrals to treatment and other social services such as addiction services. The SSP is one of a number of harm reduction initiatives by the Department of Health and the Opiate Task Force to address the opioid issue in Allen County. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SSPs are an effective way to minimize transmission of hepatitis C and HIV. In 2015, as a result of a significant increase in both in Allen County, the Board of Health authorized the Department to begin the process of establishing a local SSP as part of an opioid strategic plan. On October 6, 2016, ISDH approved the department’s plan.

The Department of Health is appreciative of its board, the Opiate Task Force, and other community partners who have assisted in the development of an evidence based strategy to begin to address this public health issue as a community. To effectively address a problem of this magnitude requires the engagement and collaboration of the entire community.