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Compassionate Conservatism Near Death in Indiana

Updated on April 21, 2015

Currently in Southern Indiana, communities are experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of deadly illnesses, related to Intravenous drug use and the lack of needle exchanges. As a result of this outbreak, the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Mike Pence are allowing short-term needle exchanges only in those areas hit hardest. The assembly already balked at the chance to allow needle exchanges state-wide, and their reasoning for this is difficult to understand.

In this writer's opinion, both sides should be able to agree on a few basic facts. First of all, needle exchanges are a preventative measure, so implementation in an area that is already experiencing a widespread health crisis is smart, but it will not cure anyone who has already been infected. Secondly, the diseases that IV drug users are most at risk for are incurable and incredibly difficult and expensive to treat; things like HIV-Aids and Hepatitis C. Thirdly, although there is insufficient data on this issue, it is probably fair to assume that the drug addicted population is generally not going to be a highly insured population, so the public will pay for this in the long run. And lastly, nobody can realistically argue that needle exchange availability would ever cause a person to choose to begin using hard drugs; the people that desperately need these facilities are already using drugs, and keeping them safe from deadly illnesses is a benefit to all of us.

Even if most people will never use an intravenous drug, everyone is at greater risk for HIV and other serious illnesses if there are increasing numbers of cases in our communities. Getting drug addicts into treatment will always be the goal, but keeping people from contracting HIV is a wider public health issue, and these facilities are most often places where addicts can get information on treatment and ways to become clean and sober. So far the Republicans' reasons for not wanting needle exchanges have been hard to pin down or summarize. George Bush won the presidency talking about compassionate conservatism, so even if we assume that this does not directly effect a single republican, isn't this a wonderful opportunity for the republican party to prove how compassionate they can be? I believe the fiscal responsibility argument is really secondary here, but a widespread outbreak of deadly, lifelong illnesses will be an incredible burden to our already burgeoning health care costs. I think this is a perfect opportunity for those republicans who are Christians to show that they understand Jesus' message about caring for the sick and needy, even if they don't see this issue as a political opportunity to do the right thing.

What if every one of us had a family member who was addicted to IV drugs? We would want to help that person, there is no doubt about that. However, until that person is able to seek help, do we want them in the streets using and sharing dirty needles? If we all had a friend or a relative in that position, there would be no argument. So why are we letting our neighbors who are in that very position kill themselves, and possibly infect others at the same time? This is an easy issue, and a golden opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together and do the right thing. The fact that this issue is uncomfortable to talk about cannot be an excuse to allow deadly diseases to ravage our most at-risk members of society; and there is no reason politically to incur the cost of that, when a simple fix is right in our grasp. There are so many tough issues in the world that nobody has an answer for, so let's stop wasting time on issues like this where every health care professional in the country knows what the next step should be. Needle exchanges should be legal statewide, and everyone would be safer for it. This issue is coming back up for a vote in the coming weeks, before the General Assembly goes on break, and we should all be pressuring our representatives to do the right thing.

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