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Palm Beach County Pushing For Clean-Needle Program

Palm Beach County Pushing For Clean-Needle Program

Written by: stodzy | Date: October 13, 2017

Clean-needle exchange programs are policies and institutions that allow access to new and sterile needles or syringes. These programs distribute clean needles and safely dispose of new ones for the main purpose of preventing the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne pathogens. Although they may not seem like it to some, they are considered part of harm reduction programs.

Palm Beach County is currently pushing to extend a clean-needle exchange program that started in Miami into their county to allow heroin users to swap their used needles for new ones. The County, like many others in the state, has seen a dramatic rise in drug abuse and overdose. The County officials and health commissions are pushing for the program as they predict to see a rise in HIV and hepatitis and believe this program expansion could halt these rising numbers.

Following Miami’s Lead

Last year, the first clean-needle exchange program was approved by legislators for Miami- Dade county. The program is run by the University of Miami and does not receive any public funding as of right now. It is supported through private loans and donations, and alongside clean needles and syringes, the program provides educational opportunities, disease testing, and the clean syringes.

Public health officials support the idea of access to clean needles and agree it could drastically reduce the number of blood-transmitted diseases. They do, however, support the use of illegal drugs, and claim using public funding to support this program would, in turn, be supporting illegal activity

Health Impact and Cost-Effectiveness

As clean-needle programs and drug use itself are on the rise, analysts have begun to study how effective these kind of programs actually are in decreasing the negative effects of drug abuse and used needed.

A Three-year study was done on New York’s exchange program, which was passed by the legislature from 1990-2002. The results were as follows:

  • HIV prevalence decreased from 50 percent to 17 percent
  • At risk individuals for HIV from 3.55 to 0.77 per 100 persons

British Columbia lifted their ban on syringe exchange programs, and after a new one was implemented, the results were as follows:

  • 70 percent decrease in new HIV cases
  • 120 HIV cases averted in two years

clean needles

Cost-effectiveness studies were also conducted on these successful cases. New York City was analyzed and shown to have saved anywhere from 1300 to 3000 dollars per client after implementing the program. The exchange and disposal of needles are far lower in cost than the treatment of HIV and blood-borne infections.

One analysis estimated that expanding the clean syringe program  to $10 million would result in:

  • 194 HIV infections averted annually
  • Lifetime treatment cost savings of 75 million
  • Return Investment of 7.58$ for every 1$ spent (nationally)

Florida’s Potential Impact

Miami’s program has already had good success with the program and has seen a decrease in hospital visits and treatment due to needle sharing or infections from used needles. After Fort Lauderdale ranked no. 1 in the nation for drug abuse, Dr. Hansel Tookes of University of Miami fought for this legislature to finally be passed. Now, other counties and states are trying to follow suit and experience the same positive effects.

If Palm Beach gets the green light on the program, the first step they will need to take is getting enough funding, and then installing the exchange locations in safe and accessible locations. If all goes well and Palm Beach experiences the same decrease in drug related diseases and deaths as those before it have, Florida could move down the ranks of states with the most drug related deaths.

More importantly, a successful implementation in Palm Beach would mean more chance of other counties and states legalizing the program and starting a trend nationwide. It may not be the answer to drug use, but the amount of potential dangers it can combat at least lowers the risk of life threatening complications and improves the quality of life for those struggling with drug addiction.

How You Can Help

The Medical Students in Florida are working closely with Florida Medical Association to legalize the exchange program. After denials in the past, support means everything right now. If you support this program and its benefits, you can send a letter the State Rep. or Senator showing your support and asking for the legislature to be passed. You can send a letter through harmreduction.org where you can also view the proposed bill.

To keep in touch with the campaign visit www.cleanneedlescleanflorida.com

Getting Help at Wayside House

If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help.We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.