For Immediate Release
April 10, 2019
(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Marion County Public Health Department announced an important step in launching its Safe Syringe Access and Support (SSAS) Program. The health department today joined community leaders, partners and supporters for the unveiling of a mobile unit that will be used to operate the county’s first syringe service program.
The City-County Council of Marion County and Indianapolis voted unanimously to approve SSAS in June 2018. Marion County Public Health Department Director Virginia A. Caine, M.D., proposed the program in May 2018 after declaring a public health epidemic due to the county’s alarming increase in hepatitis C cases and a potential surge in HIV cases.
According to Caine, Marion County experienced a 1,000 percent increase in the number of hepatitis C cases from 2013 to 2017, a majority of which are attributed to injection drug use.
In addition to a syringe exchange, the customized mobile unit will offer other vital support services, including HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening, referral for substance use disorder and mental health treatment, and immunization access. Strong evidence shows that syringe service programs like this can increase treatment uptake, reduce healthcare costs, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
“The time is now for Marion County to step forward and take action for the health of residents and the community,” said Caine. “It will take a multi-level approach such as this program to slow the spread of infectious diseases, get more people into drug treatment, and provide necessary services to address this epidemic.”
Caine added, “We appreciate the support of those partners who join us in this effort.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that syringe exchange programs slow the rate of drug use, reduce needle stick injuries among first responders, and reduce the number of drug overdose deaths.
“The Safe Syringe Access and Support program will fill a critical need in our community, protect more Hoosiers from hepatitis C and HIV and connect individuals with the support they need to get on a path to recovery,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, President & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which awarded a three-year, $1.45 million grant to the county for the program. “We are pleased to partner with the county and provide funding for the mobile unit and medical supplies as part of the effort to combat the opioid crisis in Indianapolis.”
Marion County joins eight other Indiana counties with an active syringe service program.
For more information on the Safe Syringe Access and Support Program, including hours and location of mobile sites, please visit MarionHealth.org/SafeSyringe.
# # #
Media/Public Information Coordinator
317-221-2316 (o) │ 317-525-7450 (c)