I won’t say too much about this since it involves a local issue where I might be called upon professionally, but I saw two mentions of needle exchange programs in the news, back-to-back, and it seemed worth noting.
Scott Miley, reporting for CNHI, had an article about recommendations as to where potential opioid settlement money should go. (The lawsuits are fairly fresh, so discussions about settlement money might be a little premature). In that article, there was a discussion of needle exchanges:
The IU study also suggests that policymakers recognize the critical importance of syringe exchange and similar safe-space programs, which can provide Naloxone and treatment options.
“The state’s syringe exchange program (SEP) remains incoherent with major county-by-county variations,” the report states. “This is despite the clear evidence base for exchanges as recognized by, for example, the Surgeon-General’s Report (of 2016), their proven role in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and overall cost effectiveness.”
Researcher Ross Silverman, professor of health policy and management, said that syringe and safe-space programs need to build trust with their communities. But policymakers, too, should evaluate Indiana law affecting those trying to seek help for addictions.
“The way that Indiana law is structured, when an individual can now be charged with a level 6 felony for possession of drug paraphernalia, sends a very contrary message to getting people to be actively involved in syringe exchange programs,” Silverman said.
The other story I happened to see was on the local Tippecanoe County needle exchange program, written by Jeong Park for the Lafayette Journal & Courier. There have been a variety of objections to that program locally, mostly centering on either the location of the program or on whether this encourages drug use. Fear of dirty needles has also been a prominent concern. This report is on the rate of return of needles to the program which is apparently up since the program’s inception last summer.
About 14,000 out of 19,700 needles given out have been returned as of March 31, according to the data released Thursday. That’s a return rate of 71 percent, an 11.5 percentage point increase from about four months ago. The county expects the rate to increase as more return to the program.
As of March 31, 230 people have used the program, an increase from 138 as of Dec. 31.
“We’ve been a bit surprised,” said Tippecanoe County’s health officer Jeremy Adler. “It’s a reflection of how bad the epidemic has hit our community. It’s an eye-opening number.”
Gateway to Hope, the needle exchange program, started in August to address the hepatitis C epidemic and other health challenges that come with the opioid crisis.