TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Finding a location for the needle exchange program in Tippecanoe County is proving to be a challenge.
“How would you feel if the needle exchange program was in your neighborhood?” News 18 asked Iris Hillard, a Tippecanoe County resident.
“I wouldn’t necessarily want it in this area, around my backyard, no,” replied Hillard.
When asked why, Hillard couldn’t say.
It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski is willing to speak up for those who can’t.
“You know, I still have to think about the perception issue for that neighborhood, those people that live there, people that are trying to invest money,” said Roswarski.
Trying to find a location for a needle exchange program is a tough sell. Tippecanoe County Health Department nursing supervisor Khala Hochstedler would know. She’s been through hundreds of calls, trying to find a place that works.
“It needs to be on the bus line, also in walking distance for a lot of people. Surprisingly, not a lot of people we see in the health department, they walk here,” said Hochstedler.
Brown Street United Methodist Church fits that criteria perfectly. However, Roswarski opposed its offer to host the program.
“I don’t think that is a good fit,” Roswarski said. “You know, we already have several other social services right in that area.”
So, what is the perfect fit?
“I’ve always felt that it should be in some type of medical facility,” said Roswarski. “It’s first and foremost the best opportunity, but it doesn’t appear with some of our medical folks that that’s probably going to happen.”
News 18 asked IU Health Arnett about the issue. This statement was issued:
“We continue to work with the Tippecanoe County Health Department on this issue to identify how IU Health Arnett might support their efforts to establish the program to provide services to help individuals in need.”
Franciscan Health was more clear with its answer saying, in part, in a statement issued from the hospital:
“Due to both of our construction projects, we are not in a position to offer up space for any additional services. Although we support the community initiative to help tackle the issue of the spread of disease, we are also concerned about the continued illegal drug use from an ethical and moral perspective.”
Some suggest a mobile needle exchange unit. Roswarski is a fan of that idea.
“It would be great if we could do that in conjunction with an organization that could offer other services there; whether they might be medical, whether there might be on site addiction services,” said Roswarski.
And although its location is still up in the air, many still agree a needle exchange program is needed here.
“Definitely,” Hillard said.