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Expansion of needle exchange program now in Governor’s hands

Each county will decide on its own whether to adopt a version of the program

After the Senate unanimously approved a bill allowing statewide expansion of a Miami-Dade County needle exchange program, the bill is now ready for the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Importantly, the legislation (SB 366) does not mandate the program be expanded. Each county will decide on its own whether to adopt a version of the program similar to the one established in Miami-Dade back in 2016.

Sen. Oscar Braynon II filed the bill that was eventually approved by both chambers. Reps. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, and Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, formed a bipartisan team supporting the measure on the House side.

In 2016, the Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) created the needle exchange program at the University of Miami.

The five-year pilot program was limited to Miami-Dade County. In addition, the county was not allowed to use state, county or municipal funds to run the exchange and instead relied on grants and private funding.

That ban on the use of taxpayer dollars still stands. In order to participate, a county must pass an ordinance approving the program, enter an agreement with the Department of Health, and partner with approved organizations to operate the program.

While critics have worried giving clean needles to addicts will promote drug use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the exchanges can prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases by ensuring addicts are using clean needles.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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