On Thursday, the state health commissioner declared a public health emergency for Allen County. That declaration allows the county to establish a syringe services program, or an SSP.
Back in May, the Allen County Board of Commissioners approved a needle exchange program in response to increasing rates of Hepatitis C and HIV.
Allen County Health Commissioner Deb McMahan says one of the best ways to stop HIV and Hepatitis C outbreaks is to offer clean syringes, needles, and paraphernalia to intravenous drug users.
“The average person with Hepatitis C infects about 20 other people before they’re identified," McMahan said. "It’s in our best interest to minimize the transmission of this very expensive disease."
So far there have been 222 confirmed cases of Hepatitis C cases in Allen County this year. That’s a small percentage of the population, but McMahon says it’s a huge cost. The drug that treats Hepatitis C alone is about $35,000.
In addition to clean needles, the syringe services clinic will provide free HIV and hepatitis C testing, and make referrals to treatment centers and social services.
The clinic will be located at 519 Oxford Street in Fort Wayne. McMahon hopes to have the SSP operating by early November.