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Lawmakers seek expansion of needle-exchange program

Two Democratic lawmakers filed proposals this week that seek to expand a pilot needle-exchange program approved in 2016 for Miami-Dade County.

After four unsuccessful tries, the Legislature finally passed a bill to create needle exchange program in Florida during the 2016 Legislative Session. Modest in scope, the bill was limited to only in Miami-Dade County.

West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones proposed legislation in the House (HB 579) Wednesday that would allow the Florida Department of Health to establish needle-exchange programs that would be administered by the department or entities such as hospitals, health-care clinics, substance-abuse treatment programs or HIV and AIDS service organizations.

That follows a companion bill (SB 800) filed in the Senate Tuesday by Miami Gardens Oscar Braynon, the Senate Minority Leader.

The programs would offer the free exchange of clean, unused needles and hypodermic syringes for used needles and hypodermic syringes as a means to prevent the transmission of HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis or other blood-bourns diseases among IV drug users, their sexual partners and their offspring.

There have been at least 228 syringe service programs created in 35 states around the country, according to NASEN, the North American Syringe Exchange Network (as of 2015).

In January 2016, Congress lifted the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs. Though federal funds still can’t be used for syringes themselves, they can go toward costlier expenses associated with these programs, such as staff, vans, substance use counseling, referral to treatment and outreach in at-risk communities, reported USA Today.

Congress first banned the use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs in 1988, lifted the prohibition in 2009 and reinstated it in 2011.

 

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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