Bill Introduced to Expand Needle Exchange Law

Delegate Clarence Lam has introduced a bill that will expand current state law to allow all Maryland jurisdictions and non-profit organizations to establish needle exchange programs. As reported in The Cecil Whig:

Under current state law, only Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are authorized to run programs to exchange used syringes from addicts with clean ones. The syringe program run by the Baltimore City Health Department – which provides sterile syringes, overdose prevention and naloxone training, drug treatment referrals, wound care and other health services to its clients – is currently the only program in operation.

Delegate Clarence Lam (D-Baltimore/Howard), however, introduced new legislation that would loosen the reins and allow all Maryland jurisdictions, as well as non-profit organizations, to establish such programs if they choose to do so.

Lam, who also serves as a preventive medicine physician on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in announcing his bill, “As a public health physician, I’m committed to reducing the incidence of transmissible disease in a community, and syringe exchange programs have been proven to reduce the spread of hepatitis, HIV, and other harmful infections. Syringe exchange programs also provide for another opportunity to encourage drug users to enter into substance abuse treatment programs.”

“Given the current heroin epidemic identified in several counties and areas throughout Maryland, this bill would be a valuable tool and a timely addition to the State’s toolbox to address the rising concern of substance abuse.”

The article notes that some controversy surrounds needle exchange programs. While some studies show positive results from the programs, critics do not support the idea of supplying users with tools for illegal drug use. Additionally, in 2010 Congress voted to extend a ban on federal funding of the programs despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to overturn the ban.

For more information read the full article in The Cecil Whig.