Indiana's Attorney General addressed his concerns Wednesday of legislation introduced that would expand statewide needle exchange programs.
The proposed legislation would allow a county or municipality to approve the operation of a syringe exchange program. The programs enacted in this way would be allowed to be renewed for not longer than two years. They would also be required to keep a sufficient supply of an overdose intervention drug in stock. The state health commissioner would be given written notice when the programs are renewed, expired or terminated or if the organization operating it changes.
Currently, only counties possess the ability to call for needle exchange programs. They can only do this when a health emergency, such as Hepatitis-C or HIV outbreaks, occur. Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill says the proposed bill would eliminate the requirement that exchange programs only be initiated in response to health emergencies. He says while well intended, this can lead to issues down the road.
“The current needle exchange program may be well intended, but it has evolved into a needle giveaway, ultimately contributing to more syringes being passed around and shared in our communities," Attorney General Hill said.
Attorney General Hill says the proposed bill would only allow more communities to pass out needles without justifiable cause. He says this would be a detriment to efforts to get victims of drug abuse the treatment they need.
"It will only serve to further trap them in the vicious cycle of opioid addiction," Attorney General Hill said. "We need to help our fellow Hoosiers who are caught in that cycle, but we need to do so in a way that is conducive to placing them in rehabilitation facilities where they can get the treatment they need in order to overcome the greatest battle of their lives."
Attorney General Hill assured the Public Health Committee that his office is willing to work with them towards a more comprehensive solution aimed at solving the State’s heroin problem.
“I don’t want another Hoosier to die from their addiction – especially with a needle provided by the State of Indiana.”
You can read the full proposed bill here.