Safe Syringe Access and Support Program

 

WHY MARION COUNTY NEEDS A SYRINGE EXCHANGE PROGRAM

The proposed Safe Syringe Access and Support (SSAS) Program will reduce the growing number of hepatitis C infections in the county and prevent an HIV outbreak. Studies show that participants in a syringe exchange program are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than injection drug users who do not participate in the program.

 

The number of persons who inject drugs in Marion County is rising significantly, leading to a future burden of costly chronic diseases spanning their lifetimes and beyond. Current measures aimed at injection drug abstinence have been inadequate ­– surveillance, evaluation activities and secondary prevention programs have failed to avert hepatitis C transmission through intravenous (IV) drug use.

 

Marion County is now faced with implementing harm reduction strategies to minimize the adverse outcomes of injection drug use while promoting the overall health and safety of injection drug users and their families. For individuals who will not or cannot stop injecting drugs, the one-time use of sterile syringes is the safest, most successful method for limiting the transmission of blood-borne infections.

 

Surveillance by the Marion County Public Health Department shows a greater than 10-fold increase among all individuals acquiring acute hepatitis C in Marion County in 2017. Doctors and public health officials fear increased IV drug use may also lead to a severe HIV outbreak, similar to what transpired in Scott County, Indiana where health officials diagnosed over 200 new cases of HIV from  2015-16 which historically reported fewer than 5 cases annually.

 

Syringe exchange programs are proven to be effective at reducing the rates of hepatitis C within communities while preventing outbreaks of HIV. The health department’s proposed SSAS Program would work to reduce the spread of infectious disease throughout the community while offering additional support services to participants, such as engagement in substance abuse treatment, health care navigation and overdose prevention education.

 

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports that syringe exchange programs:

  • Curtail drug use
  • Reduce needlestick injuries among first responders
  • Decrease overdose deaths
  • Reduce new HIV and viral hepatitis infections
  • Save tax and health care dollars by preventing overdoses and new HIV/hepatitis C infections

 

The proposed SSAS Program would ensure injection drug users have access to clean syringes to prevent infections, keep used needles off the streets and connect individuals with needed health services.

 

Initially, the program would operate as a mobile unit. Sites would be based on overdose deaths by location, residences of decedents, Indianapolis EMS use of Narcan, and recommendations by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Support services would include:

  • HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening
  • Safer drug use practices
  • Referral for substance use disorder and mental health treatment
  • Wound care education
  • Immunizations
  • Referral to primary care
  • Access to health insurance coverage

 

 

After introduction of the program proposal to the City-County Council, the Marion County Public Health Department will host three public meetings at the below dates and locations:

 

LOCATION DATE AND TIME
City-County Building

200 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN

Room 260

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

5:30 p.m.

Marion County Public Health Department

3838 N. Rural St., Indianapolis, IN 46205

1st Floor Conference Room

Thursday, May 31, 2018

6-8 p.m.

Marion County Public Health Department

3838 N. Rural St., Indianapolis, IN 46205

1st Floor Conference Room

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

6-8 p.m.

 

 

Resources

News Release: Public Health Director Virginia A. Caine, MD, Proposes First Ever Syringe Program for Marion County (May 17, 2018)

Frequently Asked Questions: Safe Syringe Access and Support (SASS) Program

What are Marion County health care and health education leaders saying about this health emergency and safe syringe program?

Proposal for Indianapolis and Marion County- City Council

To learn more, please visit www.marionhealth.org.

 

**If you are unable to attend a public meeting and would like to make a comment, please click here.**