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County Commissioners vote to keep needle exchange program

Needle Exchange Vote Monday

The Syringe Exchange Program in Tippecanoe County is sticking around. Commissioners decided to extend the program Monday morning, 2-1.

Posted: Dec 4, 2017 12:10 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2017 12:47 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Syringe Exchange Program in Tippecanoe County is sticking around.

Commissioners decided to extend the program Monday morning, 2-1.

Commissioner Byers was the deciding vote. He told News 18 two weeks ago that his vote would be based on facts and what was presented at the Dec. 4 meeting.

At that meeting, the Tippecanoe County Health Department presented the latest statistics regarding the Gateway to Hope Program.

Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said in 2017, we have had 154 new cases of Hepatitis C. Adler said asked commissioners for more time for the program to see those Hep C numbers go down. He said the program has seen people from all walks of life since it started in August. So far, the return rate has been 85 percent. It has distributed 8,149 needles but has collected 9,395 due to the fact it collects needles in general, not just from the program. Out of the 111 participants, 85 percent have been tested for Hep C and 37 have tested positive.

The health department read a letter to commissioners written by a participant in the program. That person asked commissioners to keep the program and explained how it is helping her.

The program is located at 629 North Sixth St. in Lafayette. Recently, the health department announced a mobile exchange unit would be parked once a month at IU Health on Salem Street in Lafayette.

Several neighbors voiced concerns about the location of the program at the meeting on Monday. Many concentrated on the possibility of finding dirty needles in the community.

As News 18 previously reported, the health department does a weekly cleanup to make sure needles aren't found on the streets as a result of the program. So far, the department has only found two needles. Volunteers pick up trash in the process. Without the program, the health department says it will no longer do the weekly clean sweeps.

The exchange has only been approved for another year at this time.

News 18 will have reactions from neighbors, the health department and commissioners about the decision tonight on News 18 at Five and Six.

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