Lawmakers pushed back the death sentence for Indiana’s needle exchange programs by one year under legislation approved by a Senate committee.
Wednesday’s vote comes after the programs were put in jeopardy earlier this session.
Indiana’s nine needle exchange programs are set to expire in state law July 1, 2021. A bill earlier this year would’ve extended them indefinitely – but the Senate killed that measure.
Now, lawmakers are trying again with a one-year extension, until July 2022. State Health Commissioner Kris Box says keeping the programs alive is a must.
“From 30 years of research, we know that syringe service programs reduce the number of new infections by providing testing, connecting patients to care and providing sterile syringes to people until they’re ready to enter treatment,” Box says.
The state’s first needle exchange programs were created in 2015 in response to an HIV epidemic in southern Indiana.
Clark County Health Director Eric Yazel says his county’s program cut overdose deaths and emergency room visits in half.
“You know, I’d love to stand up here someday and tell you that these programs aren’t needed anymore,” Yazel says. “Unfortunately, today is not that day and we’re not even close.”
The one-year extension now goes to the full Senate.