Madison Co. extending its needle exchange program

FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, new needles which clients can get as part of the needle exchange program at the Austin Community Outreach Center are displayed in Austin, Ind. Indiana's health commissioner approved a one-year needle-exchange program Thursday, May 21, 2015, for a rural county at the center of the state's largest HIV outbreak, an epidemic that's being driven by needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. The southeastern Indiana county had been operating a temporary needle-exchange under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Pence that will expire Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, new needles which clients can get as part of the needle exchange program at the Austin Community Outreach Center are displayed in Austin, Ind. Indiana's health commissioner approved a one-year needle-exchange program Thursday, May 21, 2015, for a rural county at the center of the state's largest HIV outbreak, an epidemic that's being driven by needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. The southeastern Indiana county had been operating a temporary needle-exchange under an executive order signed by Gov. Mike Pence that will expire Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)


MADISON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – Madison County’s needle exchange program is expanding after the increase of participants have grown each month. Officials say the goal is to stop the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV in the region.

Madison County announced its needle exchange program at the beginning of August 2015 and since then, reportedly tens of thousands of needles have been handed out. Now the program is being extended for another year.

According to a report from the Herald Bulletin, in August 2015 the needle exchange program saw five patients and distributed 1,200 syringes. In September of this year, the program saw 58 patients and distributed 16,500 syringes and the numbers keep growing. The Madison County Health Department recently received an $11,400 grant to help purchase the syringes.

Reportedly, the county can purchase 30,000 syringes for $5,000 with the grant money. The Health Department also received 200 doses of the life-saving Narcan from the state.

The program isn’t just getting people to see health officials to get free needles, it’s also allowing health officials to evaluate and treat some of these addicts.

Again, officials said the main goal of this program is to bring down the number of hepatitis C cases in the county. But they are increasing because more people are being tested. In 2013, there were 70 Hepatitis C cases in Madison County. The number reached 211 in 2015. The county is now on point to exceed those numbers.