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Scott Co. sheriff warns cutting needle exchange program will cost county millions

The program is credited with successfully driving down the transmission rate of HIV and Hepatitis C, though opponents argue it enables drug use.

SCOTT COUNTY, Indiana — Scott County Sheriff Jerry Goodin was an adamant opponent of the needle exchange program when it first started in 2015. The syringe service program (SSP) was the first of its kind in Indiana. It came after an HIV outbreak in Scott County largely due to those facing drug addiction sharing needles.

"No one likes the needle exchange program, even the people that administer the needle exchange. On its face value they don't like it and it's a nightmare for law enforcement," he said.  

He said after years of looking at the statistics and educating himself, his views have changed. The program is credited with successfully driving down the transmission rate of HIV and Hepatitis C, though opponents argue it enables drug use.

And now, with the program's future up in the air, Sheriff Goodin is concerned about what's going to happen inside the jail if it gets cut. Currently, the Scott County Jail is averaging 16 inmates with HIV a month. On average, it costs around $110,800 monthly or $1.3 million a year. 

Currently, Scott County Jail is the only jail in Indiana whose HIV program is funded by state grants. 

"I will tell you right now I do not know where Scott County is going to come up with those $1.3 million," said Goodin. 

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, could not confirm that the grants would stay if the program was cut. 

Since 2016, Scott County has treated 980 inmates with HIV. If the program is cut, Goodin says educational programs for inmates will be cut first. Goodin said he will then be forced to come up with a way to fund the medical program in the jail, an option would be to raise taxes. 

"We can't say we won't treat them. It's our obligation to treat them it's the law to treat them," he said. 

The commissioners have another meeting scheduled for May 19 where they could potentially make a decision on whether or not to end the program. 

►Contact reporter Elle Smith at esmith@whas11.com or on her social media outlets: Facebook or Twitter.

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