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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Needle exchange programs in nine counties will get the green light to continue for at least another year.

A month ago, the Senate voted down a bill to eliminate next year’s expiration date for needle exchanges. But a one-year extension gathered momentum, and a 78-7 vote Thursday in the House sends that version to Governor Holcomb.

New Albany Representative Ed Clere says the programs have served more than eight-thousand Hoosiers in four years, and have gone far beyond halting the spread of HIV and hepatitis. The programs have steered hundreds of addicts into drug treatment. And by connecting them with the health system, it’s allowed them to be tested for HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.

Clere says state health department figures show four out of five needles are returned for clean new ones, around the midpoint of what other states with needle exchange have experienced.

Nine counties have adopted needle exchange, including Marion County. State Health Commissioner Kristina Box says six of those nine programs are up for renewal by county commissioners in the next year, and would likely be terminated without some certainty that the state won’t pull the plug.

The extension gives the health department time to work on a case to present to legislators next year for eliminating the expiration date entirely.