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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: September 15, 2015 04:18 PM
From: Representative Ed Gainey
To: All House members
Subject: Creation of a Statewide Needle Exchange in PA
I will soon be introducing legislation that would provide for a statewide needle and syringe exchange program.

Currently, state law does not permit needle and syringe exchanges. These programs successfully exist in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and have been found to significantly reduce the spread of diseases, especially hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. These programs exist because local authorities permit their existence. Still, as the law does not permit needle and syringe exchanges, many other communities that could benefit from these exchange programs are opting not to do them in order to follow the law. Some exchange programs operate in other cities do so in fear of being arrested.

This law needs to be changed. It can be done by amending the definition of “drug paraphernalia” under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to carve out an exemption where the syringe, needle or other object is provided to a drug dependent person by a public or private agency or health care provider authorized to provide the object through a needle exchange or other program. The agency or provider should then, at the same time, provide to the drug dependent person information regarding the treatment of drug dependency.

This will also further assist in getting substance abusers into treatment. Their coming into contact with officials at these needle and syringe exchanges will allow officials to provide them with information on where and how to obtain drug treatment. This outreach can be critical in getting people off of drugs and back into productive lives.

Getting dirty needles off the streets is important for the public safety. Addicts use about 1,000 needles per year and they often discard these needles in communities, on streets and in public or common areas. Of key concern is the dangers these dirty needs present to law enforcement. Many police officers report a fear of searching suspects for fear of getting stabbed with a dirty needle being carried by someone being frisked.

Reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C have important cost considerations. A cure for hepatitis C has been found, yet it costs are over $80,000. Our Medicaid budget is projected to explode over these costs as hepatitis C cases have recently greatly increased. The sharing of needles and syringes has been found as a leading cause of this disease’s outbreak. It is estimated that 3,300 Pennsylvanians contracted hepatitis C from a dirty needle in the past year. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that from half to most of new hepatitis C infections come and one fifth to one third of new HIV infections come from sharing needles.

Opponents to this mistakenly believe this increases drug use; studies have shown it does not, and in fact, does the opposite. Please consider joining me in sponsoring this important public safety legislation.

Introduced as HB2053