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Monroe County One Step Closer To Needle Exchange Program
Updated September 8, 2015 3:10 PM | Filed under: Health
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(BLOOMINGTON) - Monroe County is one step closer to opening a needle exchange program in Bloomington.

At a public hearing Friday morning, Monroe County commissioners voted unanimously to seek approval from the state health department. If approved, residents could start exchanging used needles for unused ones within the month.

The commissioners' decision came after a public health emergency was declared about two weeks ago due to an increase in hepatitis C infections related to injection drug use.

Monroe County has one of the highest numbers of new Hepatitis C cases in Indiana. In 2009, the Indiana State Department of Health confirmed 63 new cases of Hepatitis C in Monroe County. Last year, it was 138.

The increase of Hepatitis C cases among intravenous drug users led to an HIV epidemic in Scott County earlier this year. More than 100 people became infected with HIV when they shared used needles to inject Opana, a highly addictive prescription drug.

Within the next week, the county health department will meet with its partners to put together a proposal for a county needle exchange program, which will then be sent to the Indiana State Department of Health for approval.

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams has 10 calendar days from the date of the submission to approve or deny the request, according to state law.

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