TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The needle exchange program in Tippecanoe County is getting a second chance. The program will stay open for at least one more year.
Commissioners made the decision Monday morning, but not without gathering lots of public input.
In an anonymous letter read to commissioners, a needle exchange participant admitted, "I didn't understand the program or its purpose before coming here, but now I know its overall vision is truly to help this community."
There were also some emotional testimonies from the public during the meeting on Monday including one from Rhonda Stein, a mother of an addict who died of an overdose.
"I don't know of any bereaved moms who don't support needle exchange, harm reduction service," said Stein.
Commissioners decided to extend the needle exchange program for another year.
"We are finding clients that have Hep C. We are finding clients that have HIV. But the biggest plus for me is we are getting people to treatment, some people to treatment they need," said Tippecanoe County Commissioner Dave Byers.
But not every Tippecanoe County Commissioner voted to extend the needle exchange program, Commissioner Tom Murtaugh has been against it from the start.
"I feel like we are enabling folks and we are potentially endangering them by putting additional needles on the street," said Murtaugh.
"I understand the health crisis, but I also sit in that parking lot Monday through Friday, 1-3:30 during school hours and see the people coming out of there. I have confronted a user in the very parking lot of the health department and he was violent with words and actions and almost hit my car. He is using in that parking lot but he is protected by law?" said Brianne Hubner who lives near the current exchange location on North Sixth Street.
Murtaugh said since the program is here to stay for another year, he's making it a goal to get a better location that's not so close to schools, parks and neighborhoods.
"I would hope that next year when this is being reviewed again, and it will be on an annual basis, that at that point it's out of there, you know it has found a permanent home at a more worthwhile site," said Murtaugh.
Tuesday night, we hope to find out why local hospitals and members of the medical community still refuse to host the needle exchange program.