As Indiana counties adopt needle exchanges to fight rising levels of HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C, one county has decided to move in a different direction.
Daviess County passed a motion last week to deny funding for needle exchange programs.
The motion came after Daviess County Prosecutor Dan Murrie gave a presentation to the council. Murrie says after lawmakers passed a bill this session giving counties the authority to establish exchanges, he felt compelled to speak out not just as a prosecutor, but as a concerned citizen.
“I made it a point to get in front of the issue and present to our county council what was really being contemplated, and tried to illustrate to them that it was not a good fit for Daviess County,” says Murrie.
Delaware County’s prosecutor proposed a similar resolution last month.
Needle exchanges allow people to turn in used syringes for new ones. They also hand out kits, often including clean syringes, heroin cookers, biohazard containers for needle disposal and cotton balls and saline for injection. The exchanges are meant to encourage people who use intravenous drugs to use clean needles, rather than reuse or share equipment that can spread diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.
Murrie says it’s his opinion that needle exchanges provide a way for people who have never used intravenous drugs including heroin to get started.
“The needle exchange is an invitation, it would seem, to use heroin, or at least give the appearance of government-sponsored heroin use under certain circumstances,” says Murrie.
The Center for Disease Control recently released a report that said Indiana’s hepatitis rate was twice the national average. But recent studies from the Indiana State Department of Health revealed that Daviess County experienced fewer than 20 deaths from opioid-related drug poisoning between 2011 and 2015, and fewer than five new cases of HIV/AIDS or acute hepatitis C were reported in that time. Those levels are significantly lower than most other counties.
While Murrie says he can see a situation where the county might need a needle exchange, he says it is “highly unlikely.”
Nine of Indiana’s 92 counties have needle exchanges. They started after a 2015 HIV outbreak in Scott County.