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Monroe Co. Commissioners Approve Needle Exchange For Two Years

Monroe County Commissioners are the first to offer a two-year contract to a needle exchange program after a change in state law this year. The commissioners voted last week to extend the program through the end of 2019.

The nonprofit organization the Indiana Recovery Alliance has operated the program since 2015. It allows people to exchange used syringes for new ones, and also offers free naloxone, STD testing and other health services.

Until this year, counties could only approve a syringe exchange for a year at a time.

Indiana Recovery Alliance Director Chris Abert says to receive the two-year renewal, each program has to prove its effectiveness to county commissioners and the community.

“The problem with that is that we have a historically criminalized population,” Abert says.

Abert says the stigma against people with addiction makes it difficult to get approval for even a one year renewal.

“To then turn around and ask people if we should help people who have been villainized for a hundred years seems like folly,” Abert says.

Needle exchanges in other Indiana counties have been shut down or denied funding this year, including in Lawrence and Madison counties.

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