Needle exchange program authorization bill to be debated

HB 250 is a bill proposed by Louisiana House member Steven E. Pylant of District 20, representing Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, LaSalle and Tensas parishes. If HB 250 is passed, local governments will be allowed to authorize needle exchange programs.

A needle exchange program (NEP) is a community-based service that allows users to obtain hypodermic needles and associated paraphernalia at little to no cost. The goal of many programs is harm reduction, which is meant to lessen the consequences of human behavior, usually from a public health standpoint, i.e., drug abuse and sex work. Harm reduction attempts to reduce risk of blood borne infections like HIV and hepatitis.

The bill was prefiled and provisionally referred to the Committee on Health and Welfare on March 29, read by title on April 10, Reported favorably (13-0) on April 26 and passed to its 3rd reading on April 27.

Currently, there are four known needle exchange programs in the state. Be Safe, Women With A Vision, Inc., New Orleans Trystereo Syringe Distribution and New Orleans Syringe Access program. The latter three are based out of New Orleans and the former is based in Baton Rouge.

Amairi Cordova, a senior at Southeastern, said “As a result of the clean needle exchange program, the transfer rate of communicable diseases will likely decrease. Proponents of the legislation may unknowingly encourage a patient’s behaviors by providing them with an equal amount of syringes that they return to the facility. Coupled with addiction counseling, the outcome may be more beneficial for those directly impacted.”

Presently, the law prohibits any transaction involving drug paraphernalia. Exceptions include “any product or object designed and sold primarily for scientific research, industrial, veterinary, or agricultural purposes, or for bona fide medical or clinical use,” according to the Louisiana State Legislature’s official website.

HB 250 is scheduled for floor debate on Wed., May 3. at 3 p.m.

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