Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County's Public Health Director, says the increases in cases for both infectious diseases is due in part to the opioid crisis. He calls a needle exchange program in Marion County a "no brainer". Marion County averages less than five cases a year, but Caine said 72 cases were confirmed last year and many more cases likely were undiagnosed. This is why she is urging city-county councilors to pursue a needle exchange program.
"Hepatitis is primarily through the spread of contaminated needles, sharing of needles or contaminated blood", she said. "It's not the only answer, but it's a critical tool".
Madison County had a program for about two years, until its support was stripped.
"The CDC has reviewed fifteen studies that show an association between needle exchanges and a decrease in HIV cases without an increase in drug use", Osili said.
The Indianapolis City-County Council will begin discussing a needle exchange program for Marion County at next Monday's meeting.
Council President Vop Osili has offered his support.
Scott County's health department implemented its program in 2015 and says it's seen a drop in HIV and hepatitis C cases.
However, not everyone is on board.
Seven counties throughout IN already have working needle exchange programs.
"What's happening in these counties, if they speak truthfully, is they have an onslaught of additional needles throughout the community that are risky, that are being found in parks, that are being found in homes, yards".
"We had tried to work with the General Assembly to try to suggest if you're going to have these programs available throughout the state there's some other parameters that need to be put in place to be able to provide data, to make sure it's doing what you're hoping that it was doing but that type of data and information gathering is not in place and so you've got all sorts of issues that are occurring with regard to the availability of needles that are being sanctioned by the government", Hill said. It can lead to liver failure and liver cancer and can be deadly.