|Posted:||April 12, 2021 12:32 PM|
|From:||Representative Ed Gainey and Rep. James B. Struzzi, II|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Syringe Services Program Legislation to Reduce Overdose Deaths and Disease Transmission and Increase Connections to Care|
In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that will allow the commonwealth to better address the rise in both Viral Hepatitis, HIV, and overdose deaths by expanding access to the public health intervention of syringe services programs.
The overdose death epidemic is a public health crisis in Pennsylvania. Our state has the 3rd highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country and the 9th highest rate of new HIV infections. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares that Pennsylvania is one of the states at risk for, or experiencing, increases in HIV and hepatitis C.
Syringe Services Programs (SSPs), are community-based health programs that provide a range of services to those struggling with substance use disorder. SSPs provide access to clean syringes and other medical supplies, disposal of syringes, referrals to drug treatment and other social services, HIV and HCV testing, naloxone and a range of other services. There are more than 400 syringe services programs operating in 39 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and Puerto Rico.
There is more than 30 years of research supporting the effectiveness of these programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that individuals who engage with SSPs are five times more likely to enter treatment than those who do not and SSPs are associated with a 50 decrease in HIV infections. SSPs are also vital locations for access to naloxone and overdose prevention education. Currently, SSPs operate in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but other areas of the state have not been able to benefit from the programs. The deans of Pennsylvania’s Public Health Schools recently released a letter supporting the expansion of SSPs.
SSPs protect first responders and the public by providing safe syringe disposal and reducing the presence of discarded needles in our communities.
These programs are also fiscally responsible. A recent study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome estimates that Philadelphia’s SSP prevented more than 10,000 HIV diagnoses in its first 10 years of operation and saved the city of Philadelphia $2.4 billion over 10 years, or roughly $240 million annually. Expanding these programs will save the commonwealth millions of dollars annually in averted medical costs.
In addition, the federal government is providing funding to states to expand these life-saving programs and Pennsylvania cannot access these funds without legislation enabling SSPs statewide. Both the Trump and Biden Administrations made expansion of SSPs a public health priority, providing funding and technical assistance to states to expand these life-saving programs. By passing legislation to specifically allow for statewide SSPs, Pennsylvania will be able to access funding and expertise to support local programs.
At this moment when Pennsylvanian is struggling to deal with a different health crisis, it is urgent that our commonwealth untie the hands of local public health professionals to save lives and reduce the spread of disease related to injection drug use. This will decrease the burden on our health care system by reducing the number of overdoses and blood-borne infections. Please join us in co-sponsoring this legislation.