Hepatitis C increase has Tippecanoe Co. looking at a needle exchange program

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Tippecanoe County is considering a needle exchange program after the number of new hepatitis C cases have nearly doubled since 2014.

Tippecanoe County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said the program would do more than give people a chance to exchange dirty needles for clean ones, it would also provide testing for both hepatitis C and HIV.

The program would refer people to local mental health and substance abuse counseling, as well as health education, vaccinations, and personal care that many may be lacking.

Despite the benefits, Adler expects some opposition at an upcoming public hearing for the program.

“However, the large number of individuals that we have spoken with not only in government and community service positions have been incredibly supportive and in favor of a program like this,” said Adler.

Adler wants the county to look at what he calls, the bigger picture.

“The goal is to treat the addiction and reduce the amount of drug use,” said Adler. “But in the mean time, we need to do something to reduce the harm that is coming from that behavior.”

Adler said seven other counties in Indiana have a needle exchange program and they’re proving to be successful.

No local tax dollars would go to the program, it would be completely funded by grants.

Commissioners are holding a hearing on the topic Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. in the Tippecanoe Room at the Tippecanoe County Office Building.