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State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., Monday declared a public health emergency for Clark County, allowing the county health department to establish a syringe exchange program as part of a broader effort to reduce the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.

The declaration of public health emergency will run through Aug. 28, 2017.

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“As the neighbor to Scott County, which has faced an unprecedented HIV outbreak tied to injection drug use, Clark County is being proactive in addressing its hepatitis C rates,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H.

“We appreciate the work that county leaders have put into their request to operate a syringe exchange program and applaud their comprehensive approach to addressing substance use disorder in their communities.”

Senate Enrolled Act 461 made syringe exchange programs legal in Indiana for the first time, under certain circumstances.

The law lays out a set of procedural and substantive requirements that local communities must meet in order for an emergency declaration to be considered by the state health commissioner.
Steps in the process for local communities:

  • Local health officer must:
  • Declare that an epidemic of hepatitis C or HIV exists
  • Determine that it is primarily transmitted through IV drug use
  • Deem that a syringe exchange program is medically appropriate as part of a comprehensive response
  • County commissioners must:
  • Hold a public hearing
  • Take official action adopting the declarations of the local health officer (above)
  • Describe other actions taken regarding the epidemic that have proven ineffective
  • Request a public health emergency declaration from the state

By declaring this public health emergency, the state health commissioner concurs with the declarations of the local health officer and county commissioners.

By law, specific aspects of design and implementation of the program are left to local officials. No state funding is used to support syringe exchange programs.

Dr. Adams has previously declared public health emergencies in Madison, Monroe, Fayette, Wayne and Scott counties.