LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Tippecanoe County's Syringe Exchange Program is seeing an increase in participants.
The latest data was released today for what the county calls its Gateway to Hope program.
So far, 282 people are participating. That's an added 52 participants since March. Retention rate has increased as well. It went from 71 percent to 78.5.
The program has handed out 28,635 syringes and collected 34,963 so far.
Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said he's optimistic about the number of new Hepatitis C cases so far in 2018.
"Think it's very promising that the number is lower this year as of June 30 when you compare it to June 30 2017, it was 79 new cases, this year it is just 50," said Adler.
Adler said it's too early to tell if that trend will continue.
The latest data shows 86 percent of participants have been tested for Hep C and 71 percent have been tested for HIV.
Gateway to Hope has referred people to substance abuse treatment 395 times.
"People that we've actively been able to get into treatment is pretty amazing, I'm shocked," said Nursing Supervisor Khala Hochstedler.
The Tippecanoe County Health Department hired a peer recovery coach who overcame addiction herself to help.
"Her name is Grace and she's been with us since April and it's given a different light to it," said Hochstedler. "Sometimes, I am not very relatable to some of the participants. I haven't been able to get them to talk about treatment or even open up."
Linkage to care is a goal for the Gateway to Hope Program but so is being a service to the whole community. Adler said he was shocked about the number of dirty syringes that have been turned into the program that did not originate from it.
"Over 12,000 and that really was surprising to us and an indication of just how wide spread the drug abuse problem is in this area," said Adler.