(INDIANAPOLIS) – Needle exchange programs in nine counties will end unless next year’s legislature extends them.
On Tuesday, senators killed a bill to get rid of the 2021 expiration date on needle exchange programs. President Pro Tem Rod Bray was one of 27 Republicans voting down the bill — he says some exchanges amount to heroin starter kits. But Bray says he’s open to voting for a bill which sets appropriate rules. He says the debate over the bill gave him a better understanding of potential benefit beyond reducing diseases like H-I-V spread by dirty needles. He says the act of going to a needle exchange site shows a glimmer of understanding of the health risks, and says it’s a prime opportunity for local health officials to make contact with those patients.
Indiana authorized its first needle exchange in 2015 in Scott County to fight an H-I-V outbreak. The law which followed allowed other counties to start programs if they saw a spike in H-I-V or hepatitis. Indianapolis Senator Jim Merritt’s (R) original bill would have eliminated the requirement to have a disease outbreak already on progress. That provision was stripped in committee, leaving the bill as a simple repeal of the expiration date.
The bill is one of several to go down to defeat this week, as the House and Senate reached deadlines for hearing their own bills. Governor Holcomb’s bill requiring workplace accommodations for pregnant women was watered down to a study committee. And some bills were euthanized by not being called for a vote, including one to allow automatic cameras in highway work zones to catch speeders and a bill to let the attorney general prosecute cases local prosecutors won’t.
The House allowed a bill creating a health care cost database to die without a vote, but the Senate passed its own version. House Speaker Brian Bosma says the issue is still a priority and will move through the House this month.