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2nd Indiana County Ends Needle Exchange Over 'Moral' Concerns

Thursday Oct 26, 2017

It must be something in the water. Less than two years after then-Governor Mike Pence faced the worst public health crisis in decades when a huge number of opioid addicts spread HIV by sharing dirty needles, Indiana legislators are rolling back needle exchange programs.

Indy Star reports that Lawrence County just joined Madison County in voting to end its needle exchange.

Regardless of the fact that Lawrence Country health board members and hospital officials supported the program that provides IV drug users with clean syringes and collects used ones, county prosecutor Michelle Woodward told commissioners she couldn't support facilitating illegal drug use.

And according to an article in Vox, County Commissioner Rodney Fish went all Biblical on their asses, quoting the Bible -- specifically, 2 Chronicles 7. It says, "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

"It was a moral issue with me. I had severe reservations that were going to keep me from approving that motion," said Fish.

Replied Chris Abert of the Indiana Recovery Alliance, "People will absolutely die as a result."

That's how he described the consequences of an Indiana county's decision to stop a needle exchange program, which helps stop the spread of infectious blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

But forget about facts, Indiana. Empirical evidence shows that needle exchange has led to a 50 percent decrease in Hepatitis C cases in Lawrence County this year. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both regard needle exchange as effective harm reduction.

Despite that a drug court judge, academics, and health care providers testified in favor of it, and that the needle exchange uses no county or state funding, county commissioners voted against it.

"It came down to morally, they're breaking the law. I can't condone that," County Commissioner Dustin Gabhart said, according to Indiana Public Media.

"Yes, it's a problem. Yes, it needs to be resolved. I could not give them the tools to do it."

Combined with the closing down of several Planned Parenthood clinics that do HIV testing due to Pence's strong anti-abortion stance, this should set Indiana up for a public health twister of, dare we say, Biblical proportions.


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