- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A southern Indiana county that sought state approval in December for a needle exchange to combat an HIV epidemic is still working to satisfy the state’s requests for information on its proposal.

Clark County Health Commissioner Kevin Burke asked state officials Dec. 15 to allow the county to begin providing clean syringes to intravenous drug users to prevent needle sharing that spreads HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases.

The State Department of Health has since asked Burke to solidify the county’s contracts with its partners, including AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Marian University, which would help fund and staff the program.

Burke said the state also wants him to reword the county’s HIV epidemic declaration, made six months ago, to better conform to statutory requirements and language. He expects to comply with those requests by the end of March.

“They’re going to give permission to do this and they want specific types of information, so I think it’s reasonable,” Burke told the News and Tribune (http://bit.ly/1M2JmWb ).

Indiana Department of Health spokeswoman Jennifer O’Malley said the state agency requested the additional information from Clark County “as is permitted under the statute, and we’re waiting to receive that.”

Fayette, Madison, Monroe and Scott counties are the only Indiana counties that have won state approval for needle exchanges under a law allowing counties to request approval for the programs. That law was approved last year in response to an HIV outbreak in Scott County, just north of Clark County, that’s the worst such outbreak in state history.

The outbreak has been tied largely to needle sharing among users injecting a liquefied form of the prescription painkiller Opana.

Clark County Commissioner Rick Stephenson said the county’s need for help is urgent, particularly in light of the HIV epidemic in adjacent Scott County. “It’s imperative that we initiate this just so we can curtail any of the spreading of the drugs and disease,” he said.

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com

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