Tippecanoe Co. Commissioners delay moving exchange program

It's going to take longer for Tippecanoe County Commissioners to decide whether to move the needle exchange program out of the Centennial Neighborhood.

Posted: Feb. 20, 2018 6:49 PM
Updated: Feb. 20, 2018 6:51 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — It's going to take longer for Tippecanoe County Commissioners to decide whether to move the needle exchange program out of the Centennial Neighborhood.

A timeframe was expected to be decided today but the health department needs more time.

People living on North 7th Street are tired of getting the run-around.

"I really am," said Elizabeth Mork. "I mean, we've been told that this will be moved to a different location repeatedly."

A new location has yet to be determined and the mobile unit is unsuitable to host the program alone, neighbors are going to have to wait even longer.

"Unfortunately, I had to leave work and I have to make up the time that I missed," said Mork. 

It's getting old but she said the neighbors will be back when it's on the agenda again next month.

"We're not going away," said Mork. "I really don't want to move, but if this continues I will have no other choice. But we do have to question why they weren't looking at viable mobile units last summer."

"We've always been looking for a suitable mobile unit," said Tippecanoe County Nursing Supervisor Khala Hochstedler. "I think the neighbors are kind of confused."

There are a few problems with the current units. They don't have air or heat to keep the HIV and Hep C tests at a working temperature and there are no separate rooms for privacy concerns.

"If you're just talking needles in, needles out we could do that on our mobile unit," said Hochstedler. "But Gateway to Hope is about linkage to care also, that's why our syringe exchange program is called Gateway to Hope."

Commissioner Tracy Brown said he's helping to come up with ways to modify the mobile units but he commends the health department for its work in the meantime.

"We're picking up trash in their neighborhood, we haven't found any syringes in their neighborhood," said Hochstedler.

Mork said dirty needles aren't her only concern. She doesn't think it's a good location for the participants either. 

"There are harsher penalties for drug users because they are within a certain number of feet within a school or a park," said Mork. "Is that ever an appropriate location to have a needle exchange?"

The Health Department announced it will partner with Lafayette Transitional Housing's location on 13th and Salem Street. The mobile unit will be parked there from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. every Tuesday.

That's in addition to a future location provided by IU Health Arnett one Saturday per month.

For now, the location on North Sixth Street will remain open from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. every Friday.

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