injection drug use

Creative Commons/Pixabay

In parts of the country hit hard by addiction, some public health officials are considering running sites where people can use heroin and other illegal drugs under medical supervision. Advocates say these facilities, known as supervised injection sites, save lives that would otherwise be lost to overdoses and provide a bridge to treatment.

Indianapolis, Indiana.
Evan Walsh

On a rainy day in Austin, Indiana, Brittany Combs, the public health nurse for Scott County, drives around in a white SUV. Medical supplies are piled high in the back of the vehicle: syringes and condoms, containers for used needles, over-the-counter medications.


Jake Harper/Side Effects

On a cold morning last winter, Christopher Hinds says he woke up early, sick from withdrawal. He called a friend and they trekked across a highway, walking for more than two miles through the snow on a street without sidewalks to buy heroin. 

“You don’t think about nothing but getting it when you’re sick like that,” he says. 

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

In the spring of 2015, something was unfolding in Austin, Ind.

Svante Myrick speaking at a press conference.
Tom Magnarelli / WRVO

Ithaca, New York, population 30,000, is a small city with a big plan to counter heroin addiction, announced by mayor Svante Myrick Wednesday.  The strategy includes a 24-hour crisis center, a new office of drug policy, and something that’s never been tried before in the United States: a medically supervised site where drug users could inject heroin.

Why Are We Not Testing More People For Hepatitis C?

Dec 1, 2015
blood transfusion
makelessnoise via Flickr

The majority of people who have Hepatitis C don't even know they have it. So why are we not testing more people for it? WHYY’s The Pulse asked New York University Medical Ethicist Art Caplan what is standing in the way.

What Have We Learned From The Indiana HIV Outbreak?

Oct 2, 2015
Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs distributes clean syringes from the back of a van in June 2015
Seth Herald

When an outbreak of HIV among injection drug users was declared in rural Scott County, Indiana, in February, it made national headlines. HIV was supposed to be an urban problem, and AIDS had been in steady decline among IV drug users since the early 90s. 

Daniel Raymond, policy director at the national Harm Reduction Coalition, says the Scott County outbreak, which infected 181 people, was a “wake up call” for communities around the country who are dealing with rising rates of hepatitis C, ongoing prescription opioid addiction, and increasing abuse of heroin.

Bordecla34

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an executive order today declaring a public health emergency in Scott County in response to a growing outbreak of HIV. His order includes authorization for a "targeted" clean needle exchange.

Clean needle exchanges are illegal in Indiana and the governor has said he opposes them as an addiction-fighting strategy, but is making an exception in the case of Scott County. The number of cases has now grown to 79 since the outbreak was first identified in January.