LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)-- The Tippecanoe County needle exchange program has seen 138 participants since opening in August.
The Health Department says more used needles are being turned in and Gateway to Hope is helping people return used needles.
Health Officer of the Tippecanoe County Public Health Department, Jeremy Adler, says people come in with needles they have shared for weeks.
His goal is to reduce the chances they are going to share needles and potentially pass diseases.
The spread of Hepatitis C is his main concern and 50 of the participants tested positive for the disease.
People who are new to the program qualify to receive clean syringes.
"Once they're in the program, they return their syringes that are used, they are exchanged for clean ones." Adler said.
Returning members of the program are more likely to have needles to return.
According to data released Thursday, 11,090 needles have been distributed and 11,569 needles have been collected.
The needle return rate has jumped from 85.3% in November to 93.3% in one month.
One mother wished the program was available sooner. Rhonda Stein's son died six years ago from an overdose.
"I think it's significant that we have this number of participants in this short amount of time, it shows that our community definitely has a need for this service." Stein said.
The program also offers narcan, STD testing and immunizations for participants.
Alder says the numbers should continue to increase as the program progresses.
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