Policy & Politics

Texas Senate Approves Bill to Allow Needle-Exchange Programs

March 20, 2009

The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted 23-7 to approve a bill (S.B. 188) that would allow local state health agencies to run needle-exchange programs to help curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas is the only state that currently prohibits needle-exchange programs, according to the Morning News .

Under the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Duell (R), health officials would be allowed to charge participants, who would be asked to turn in used needles to program officials in exchange for clean ones. According to the Morning News, there are numerous studies showing that exchange programs have health benefits "not only for drug users but also their children and those they come in contact with, such as medical providers."

Duell said that a needle-exchange program decreases the spread of HIV and hepatitis, as well as "saves the state money without costing the state any money." He added that he "understood" that the bill was a difficult vote for some senators because of misconceptions about needle-exchange programs, noting that national studies have shown the programs do not increase drug use but reduce HIV cases among IDUs by about 30%, the Morning News reports. According to the Morning News, Gov. Rick Perry (R) has indicated he does not support needle-exchange programs. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill one more time before it can proceed to the House for consideration, according to the Morning News (Stutz, Dallas Morning News, 3/19).

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